Jennifer Holliday to Meet St. Louis High School DREAMGIRLS Cast, 7/22

A $5,000 grant from the Arts and Education Council's Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers to McCluer High School to fund a student production of the musical Dreamgirls has led to $156,000 in performing arts scholarships for the Dreamgirls cast and crew. These same students will meet Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday and her cast mates backstage prior to The Muny's performance.

The students will be joined backstage Saturday by cast members performing in the same roles performed in McClure's production. The students will receive a backstage tour from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a reception (7 to about 7:45 p.m.) with Holliday and the other Muny performers. The students will then stay for the show.

McCluer High School students earned the scholarships through The Cappies, "Critics and Awards Program," a national critics and performers program that trains student performers and journalists on how to critique stage productions. More than 16 schools in St. Louis and St. Charles counties participated in the St. Louis Cappies in 2012. Area high school students trained as critics, attended shows at other schools, wrote reviews and published those reviews in local newspapers including St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The St. Louis Beacon and Patch.com.

The winners of the St. Louis Cappies were selected by student critics at the end of the 2011/2012 school year and were presented with the award at the annuAl Cappies gala on May 19, 2012 at the Pillsbury Chapel and Dale Williams Fine Arts Center on the campus of Missouri Baptist University. Each Cappie nominee received a $1,000 scholarship to Lindenwood University and winners received an additional $2,500.

"I am thrilled to see how the investment Maritz made in partnership with the Arts and Education Council has provided students with greater access to higher education. It is wonderful to see these talented students being recognized and given the opportunity to pursue a future in the arts," commented Cynthia A. Prost, president of the Arts and Education Council.

McCluer High School was one of 10 St. Louis metropolitan area schools to receive a Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers grant, awarded at the beginning of the school year in collaboration with the Arts and Education Council. Maritz gave a total of $20,000 in grants ranging from $150 to $5,000 to support special projects and opportunities that encourage creativity in the classroom. McCluer High School was awarded a $5,000 grant to fund the student production of the musical Dreamgirls.

"It would have been impossible for us to do Dreamgirls without the grant," said Doug Erwin, director of speech and theater at McCluer High School and the Ferguson-Florissant school district fine arts coordinator. "The grant allowed me to hire a vocal coach to work with the students so they could learn the vocal styles of the 60s and 70s as well as a seamstress who could custom tailor costumes."

In July, the Arts and Education Council will host members of the Dreamsgirls cast and crew at The Muny. In addition to seeing the The Muny's production of Dreamgirls, students will be treated to a backstage tour and have the chance to meet cast members.

About the Arts and Education Council – Created in 1963, the Arts and Education Council is the St. Louis region's united arts fund providing financial, technical and educational support for arts organizations. Since 1963, the Arts and Education Council has raised and distributed over $100 million in private funding for the arts – a significant contribution that directly impacts the quality of life of our 16-county, bi-state region. With funds raised, the Arts and Education Council has provided more than 2,800 grants and annually assists approximately 70 nonprofit arts and arts education organizations. Additionally, the Arts and Education Council provides office, rehearsal and performance space for 18 arts nonprofit organizations in the Centene Center for Arts and Education, a unique arts incubator located in Grand Center. Call 314.289.4000 for more information. Facebook: ArtsandEducation. Twitter: @ArtEdSTL. YouTube: ArtsandEducSTL.

Pictured: Jennifer Holliday (top); Eric Williams as Curtis Taylor with Alexis Tucker, St. Louis Cappie Lead Actress in a Musical, as Effie White




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