Who sees a musical at 10:30 a.m.?
Before all the students completed their regimented entrance to the Pearlstone Theater I spoke to 15 year-old Joanna from Notre Dame Prep. This was her first experience at Center Stage. Her only other play she had seen was "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Hippodrome. She was aquainted with "Once on This Island" having seen a video tape of her high school's caucasion version. She was very much anticipating the show.
Afterwards she was applauding heartily. She loved the music, the caribbean theme and enjoyed seeing the "true" rendition of the musical in relation to race.
Ken Walsh, a 6th grade teacher at St. Ignatius Academy was thrilled to bring his sixth grade students who walked the 25 yards from their school door to the theater. He commented, "I've never been to Center Stage. We just this morning were offered this opportunity and I was not going to let this opportunity go by." There were 75 students from St. Ignatius Acadamy, from the 6-8th grade. They were easy to spot in their light blue shirts and ties.
The student audience was extremely well-behaved and was raptured by the performance. Snickering only occurred when Daniel said to Ti Moune, "Stay the night and show me your powers."
I asked two students from Rising Sun High School from Elkton, MD what they thought. Rick Fields and David Frost, both 17 year old seniors were thrilled with the show. Rick loved the real water canal at the front of the stage while David thought the orchestra was terrific ..."especially the bongos". They compared the play to "Romeo and Juliet" in that two lovers could not "get it together".
Following the performance most of the schools allowed their students to remain for a Q & A with the entire cast on stage.
These were some of the questions and the actor's answers:
Q - What the the television monitors hanging from the balcony?
A - We used the monitors to let us know when to enter a scene and to follow the music.
Q - How many strings were used on the bass guitar?
A - Six
Q - How would you describe the style of dance?
A - Afro-Caribbean
Q - How often did you rehearse?
A - A lot...8 hours a day.
Q - Were you nervous the first time you were ever on stage and today?
A - Yes...No
Q - How did you do the accents?
A - We had a dialect coach (Scott Whitehurst)
Q - How did you get your start in acting?
A - Keep auditioning and auditioning until you get it. NEVER GIVE UP.
Q - Papa Ge...who did you get your laugh?
A - Christopher Morgan. From the character Jafar in the Disney cartoon movie "Alladin".
Q - How long have you been singing and acting?
A - Trisha Jeffrey (Ti Moune) I started singing at age 11 and had been dancing for 10 years but had no classical training. I studied African dance and jazz at college.
Q - How did you make the dancing look so easy?
A - By LaVon Fisher. It's all about relationships...we enjoy each other and play a lot...like we're 12.
Q- Is there anything in the play that relates to your normal life?
A- Trisha. Yes...defying parents,leaving home, begging a friend to stay and they leave...a lot of woman go through that. Moments in life help make us better act on stage...we're connected to it.
Q - How is it to work with two different young Ti Mounes?
A - Christopher. Very easy. We got lucky with two great young actresses.
Q - Was dancing hard to learn?
A - E. Faye Butler. When you're 90...the older you get..the harder it is...have to warm up more, wrap knees...you can't hurt yourself on stage...have to prepare yourself.
Q - Any tips you can give?
A- Christopher. Don't ever stop...keep on going...take lots of classes...get a lot of experience...network...volunteer in school plays.
David St. Louis. Don't get stuck in one style of acting or dance...do it all.
E. Faye Butler. This is a short-lived business. Don't negate what your parents say. Get an education.
Q. - Was it rough to audition when you have to act, sing and dance?
A - J.D.Goldblatt. Well...you pick a song you know very well.
DavidSt. Louis. I am NOT a dancer but I sing very well.
Q. - What year does the play occur?
A - LaVon Fisher. It's an imaginary time..it's a tale. But our director put it in the 1950's. David St. Louis. But this is still the life of many in the islands even today.
Q - To Miah Marie Patterson (young Ti Moune). What do you do in your spare time and how do you remember your lines?
A. Not hard to remember the lines. It's natural actually.
I watch tv, go to school, draw, sing and dance.
Other schools who attended were Parkville High, Chesapeake Alternative, Claremont High School, Kenwood High, Lansdowne High, Calvert School, Meade Senior High, Dundalk High, Cithy Neighbors Charter School, the Odyssey School, and Pimlico Middle.
The Students were instructed not to let the experience end at the theater and talk about their experience with their friends and family. It was a show I know the students will remember always.