Creativity in the Time of Covid–Nov. 28, 2021

VPA Welcomes Lizzi Nehls as Production Manager

Lizzi Nehls

The VPA is thrilled to announce the onboarding of Lizzi Nehls as the newest member of the Booker VPA team. Ms. Nehls is taking over as the production manager.

With experience including gigs on and off Broadway in stage management and production, Ms. Nehls brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Most recently, she worked as the Production Manager at Florida Studio Theatre, and has enjoyed tenure in production at the famed Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville.

In her first week on the job, just prior to the break, she jumped right in, painting with Production students, assisting with setup for “Six Degrees of Separation,” and learning the ropes of high school all over again.

Ms. Nehls is excited to be a part of the Booker team. She takes over for Nick Jones, who left the position in October to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Dance: “Six Degrees of Separation” Unites

Ms. Courtney Smith, VPA Dance Artistic Director, addresses the crowd on Friday night. Photo by Leila Newcomb.

The Dance Department presented “Six Degrees of Separation” on Nov. 18-19, just prior to the Thanksgiving Break, and it proved a great way to set the tone for togetherness. With a focus on human connection and the many ways our relationships impact our world, the choreography was fraught with intensity and energy.

Pieces in modern, hip hop, ballet, and styles borrowing from African and Latin traditions were performed, each examining aspects of interaction.

Modern band students provide sizzling songs. Photo by Alexander Zickafoose.

Once again, VPA Music collaborated with Dance to present interlude and accompanying music. The folk band Zephyr and modern band Tempest both performed.

Famed Filmmaker Visits VPA Film & Animation

Judge Charles Williams, left, and Valerie Scoon. Photo by John Timpe.

Filmmaker and professor Valerie Scoon visited VPA Film & Animation’s studio on Nov. 19 to talk about her new documentary. “Invisible History: Middle Florida’s Hidden Roots” was shown as part of this year’s Visions of the Black Experience Film Festival, a joint effort that includes New College and the Sarasota Film Festival.

Dr. Scoon talked with moderator Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams and then answered questions posed by the students in Ms. Burton and Mr. Timpe’s classes, as well as Ms. Sherrell’s social studies class. The event was streamed live through Zoom, so that students from New College and Riverview High could also participate.

The talk covered Dr. Scoon’s extensive work in film, with time as a producer for Warner Bros. (including giving notes to Spike Lee on “Malcolm X”) and for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Her current film deals with the treatment of Black people in the area around Tallahassee, from the beginning of enslavement through the Civil Rights Era.

Scoon also serves as a filmmaker in residence at FSU, so she was able to give Booker students guidance on what the film program there seeks in applicants.

Focus on Film: On Set

VPA Film & Animation students were on set Nov. 20-21, filming at Booker High’s Law Academy Courthouse and at the Golden Host Resort on the North Trail.

The team’s film, “Sly Ryder,” includes a cast from throughout the state. Director Milania McNair, cinematographer Ayanna Dudley, gaffer Toby Jaffee, sound mixer Marlow Seah, and grip/PA Mikey Morehouse are shooting the story about a mobster’s niece who must choose between family and her flame – who happens to be an FBI agent.

VPA Theatre Students Learn Lesson in Casting

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you may recall the story in the Nov. 7 newsletter highlighting a Theatre lesson. Students were assigned obscure musicals to research and present to their peers, through spoken word and dance. Ever heard of “Big: The Musical”? Neither had they, until excavating some of these gems and flops brought these forgotten works back into the light.

The panel of judges takes notes and offers feedback.

Fast forward to last week, when students embarked in an enrichment activity: this time, they had to teach choreography, via video links, to their peers. Once the peers learned the steps, they “auditioned” before a panel of judges–the team that initially researched and devised the choreography.

The lesson was captivating, both to the “hopefuls” and their panel of judges, who offered excellent feedback that helped hone performances.

Ms. Cynthia, who teaches dance to Theatre students, explained that the activity also gave the students the chance to see the mechanics of casting. As the resident musical choreographer (and director of the upcoming “Joseph”), she knows well the intricacies of casting. If they chose candidate A for one part, it necessarily dictated who they’d chose for some of the attending roles, based on body type and physical appearance.

Another big takeaway is the importance of personality: candidates brought their own ideas to the choreography, and the judges’ faces revealed which choices were stronger. It was helpful for students to see how these factors play a part in casting–it’s not always the most skilled dancer who gets the part. Casting is an art as rich and dynamic as any in the theatre world.

Coming Events!

Festive favorites will ring in the most wonderful time of the year, with performances in orchestra, jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, chorus, piano and more. 7 p.m. Dec. 2-3 at the First Presbyterian Church near Payne Park, 2050 Oak Street, Sarasota. This is a great event for the entire family.
The beloved musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice is sure to lift spirits. With a focus on family and togetherness, it’s a great treat for the entire family. 7 p.m. Dec. 9-11 at the Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
The first in a series of events in partnership with The Hermitage Artist Retreat, renowned bassist Luke Stewart will perform at 5:30 on Dec. 17 at the Courtyard at BHS. The free concert will feature solo performance, storytelling, and a jam session featuring Booker band students.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Cast and Crew Announced!

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, presented by Booker High School’s VPA Theatre Program. The show runs Dec. 9-11 at Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium.

“Sha la la, Joseph, you’re doing fine! You and your dreamcoat, ahead of your time!” One of the most enduring shows of all time, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a reimagining of the Biblical story of Joseph, his father Jacob, eleven brothers and the coat of many colors.

Told entirely through song with the help of a main character Narrator, the musical follows preferred son Joseph.

The magical musical is full of catchy songs in a variety of styles, from a parody of French ballads (“Those Canaan Days”), to country-western (“One More Angel in Heaven”) and calypso (“Benjamin Calypso”), along with the unforgettable classics “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.”

Creative Team

Director/Choreographer– Cynthia Ashford

Music Director– Johnnie Mnich

Technical Director– Caleb Carrier

Stage Manager– Zola Gutierrez

Department Chair- Sunny Smith

VPA Director- Rebecca Abrahamson

Mr. Mnich’s Assistants– Shae Robinson, Alex Haggard

Associate Choreographers– Raven Peterson, Bridget Marsh, Anthony Lobo

Assistant Director– Roxy Gevas

Ms. Cynthia’s Assistants– Naomi Yamada and Cora Gerdes

Cast

Lead and Principal Characters

  • Joseph- Judah Woomert
  • Narrator-Abbey Holdway
  • Pharoah-Owen Demaio
  • Jacob-Anthony Lobo
  • Potiphar- Jackson Carney
  • Potiphar’s Wife-Raven Peterson
  • Baker- Katherine Carnes
  • Butler- Olivia Milholland
  • Featured dancer-Aurora Newcomb
  • Featured vocalist-Laura Swartzendruber

Brothers:       

  • Reuben- Liam McGuire                            
  • Simeon – Dylan Ramon
  • Levi – Darwin Rojas (U/S Jacob)
  • Judah- Fed Hradek (Benjamin Calypso)
  • Dan – Auggie Toynton (U/S Pharoah)
  • Naphtali – Owen Demaio
  • Gad –Jackson Day (U/S Potiphar)
  • Asher – Kyle Ramon
  • Issachar – Mathew O’Hara
  • Zebulun – Ryan Modjeski (U/S Joseph)
  • Benjamin – Tyler Gevas

Ensemble

  • Jacquie Galvano- U/S Wives
  • Anika Pisz- U/S Wives
  • Katherine Carnes- U/S Wives*
  • Olivia Milholland- U/S Wives*
  • Mekhi Jones- U/S Brothers
  • Jackson Carney- U/S Brothers*
  • Anthony Lobo- U/S Brothers*

Wives:

  • Christina Brush (Dance Captain)
  • Aubrey Solum (Dance Captain)
  • Laura Swartzendruber*
  • Leena Jarrar
  • Bella Dorsett
  • Aurora Newcomb (U/S Narrator)*
  • Kylee Worth
  • Kate Mobley-Tarpley (U/S Potiphar Wife)
  • Julia Grandpre
  • Bridget Marsh
  • Tori Greenlaw

O Solo Me O!

For 3 years SaraSolo’s education outreach program SoloSynergy has guided juniors in Booker High School’s VPA program toward the development of creative, personal solo performances in a variety of styles and disciplines. A yearly showcase for teachers, family and peers opens eyes and hearts while allowing student to find a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

O Solo Me O! Dates and Performers

Evening #1 Wednesday 27 @ 7pm – Abbey Holdway, Trace Green, Bridget Marsh, Mackenzie O’Connor, Darwin Rojas, Nicole Parisi (featuring Annabelle Weber)

Evening #2 Thursday 28 @ 7pm – Ricky Bizzaro, Anthony Lobo, Liam McGuire, Evie Brancati, Olivia Milholland, Aubrey Solum

Evening #3 Friday 29 @ 7pm – Ryan Modjeski, Claire Bailey, Annabelle Weber (Featuring Jackson Day), Jackson Beckner, Christina Brush, Shae Robinson

Evening #4 Saturday 30 @ 7pm – Raven Peterson, Katherine Carnes, Jackson Day, Laura Swartzendruber, Saige Cherryhomes, Izzy Pizarro

O Solo Me O!

For 3 years SaraSolo’s education outreach program SoloSynergy has guided juniors in Booker High School’s VPA program toward the development of creative, personal solo performances in a variety of styles and disciplines. A yearly showcase for teachers, family and peers opens eyes and hearts while allowing student to find a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

O Solo Me O! Dates and Performers

Evening #1 Wednesday 27 @ 7pm – Abbey Holdway, Trace Green, Bridget Marsh, Mackenzie O’Connor, Darwin Rojas, Nicole Parisi (featuring Annabelle Weber)

Evening #2 Thursday 28 @ 7pm – Ricky Bizzaro, Anthony Lobo, Liam McGuire, Evie Brancati, Olivia Milholland, Aubrey Solum

Evening #3 Friday 29 @ 7pm – Ryan Modjeski, Claire Bailey, Annabelle Weber (Featuring Jackson Day), Jackson Beckner, Christina Brush, Shae Robinson

Evening #4 Saturday 30 @ 7pm – Raven Peterson, Katherine Carnes, Jackson Day, Laura Swartzendruber, Saige Cherryhomes, Izzy Pizarro

O Solo Me O!

For 3 years SaraSolo’s education outreach program SoloSynergy has guided juniors in Booker High School’s VPA program toward the development of creative, personal solo performances in a variety of styles and disciplines. A yearly showcase for teachers, family and peers opens eyes and hearts while allowing student to find a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

O Solo Me O! Dates and Performers

Evening #1 Wednesday 27 @ 7pm – Abbey Holdway, Trace Green, Bridget Marsh, Mackenzie O’Connor, Darwin Rojas, Nicole Parisi (featuring Annabelle Weber)

Evening #2 Thursday 28 @ 7pm – Ricky Bizzaro, Anthony Lobo, Liam McGuire, Evie Brancati, Olivia Milholland, Aubrey Solum

Evening #3 Friday 29 @ 7pm – Ryan Modjeski, Claire Bailey, Annabelle Weber (Featuring Jackson Day), Jackson Beckner, Christina Brush, Shae Robinson

Evening #4 Saturday 30 @ 7pm – Raven Peterson, Katherine Carnes, Jackson Day, Laura Swartzendruber, Saige Cherryhomes, Izzy Pizarro