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Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Presents ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Performances run Friday - Sunday, July 8-10, at the Audubon Middle School auditorium, 4221 S. 11th Avenue.

Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Presents  ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

The Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center, a cherished tuition-free performing arts education program for elementary and high school students in Los Angeles' Leimert Park, will stage the one-act Lynn Ahrens / Stephen Flaherty coming-of-age musical "Once on This Island" as its summer theatrical production Friday - Sunday, July 8-10, at the Audubon Middle School auditorium, 4221 S. 11th Avenue.

Performances are at 7pm July 8, 3 and 7pm July 9, and 3pm July 10. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and are available at the door or may be reserved in advance at (323) 292-2700.

"Once on This Island" premiered on Broadway in 1990. The show won the Olivier Award for best new musical for its 1994 UK production and a best musical revival Tony Award for its Broadway revival in 2018.

The Pullum Center production will be directed by Dezi Gallegos and Earl Williams and choreographed by Daveione Williams under the musical direction of Pooh Mayo. Fernando Pullum is executive producer. Williams, Gallegos and Mayo are shown in the accompanying photo, from left to right.

"The presentation of fully-staged, professionally-mounted musicals is an important part of our program," said Pullum Center founder and executive director Fernando Pullum.

"First, we're able to bring live theater to people in our community who would otherwise have limited or no access to this art form. Second, we bring together students from various disciplines and teach them how to collaborate and observe theatrical etiquette in a professional setting. And finally, we know from experience that as these students develop the ability to move well onstage and speak or sing their lines before a live audience, they will later be able to apply these skills in a variety of settings. In short, our goal is to develop not just outstanding performers, but confident and compassionate leaders."

Co-director Dezi Gallegos, who is a creative executive in film and television at Proximity Media ("Judas and the Black Messiah," "Space Jam: A New Legacy"), is working with the Pullum Center for the first time.

"I am profoundly grateful to have had this opportunity to work with the passionate staff and the talented young actors who've found an artistic home here," said Gallegos. "Fernando, Earl, Pooh, Daveione, Tracy (Williams) and the cast of 'Once on This Island' have inspired me and reminded me how magical it is to come together and put on a show."

Founded in 2011 by Fernando Pullum -- trumpet master, bandleader, first-call studio musician, and twice a "California Teacher of the Year" during his previous 25-year tenure at Los Angeles' Washington Preparatory School - the Pullum Center provides tuition-free afterschool arts education to more than 1200 elementary and high school students from South Los Angeles during the school year, plus a full-time six-week summer session.

Operating with a minimal administrative staff and a faculty of professional artists, the Center offers courses in instrumental music, vocal music, music recording, dance, theater and storytelling.

"One of the things we're most proud of is that our high schoolers have a 100% graduation rate and most of them go on to college and/or professional careers," said Pullum. "Many of them also return here to teach the next generation. It was impressed on me long ago that we have an obligation to 'pay it forward' and not only serve, but help improve, the communities in which we are based. Those are our guiding principles as we provide a safe environment for our students, help them develop self-confidence, inspire them to academic as well as artistic excellence, and train the next generation of leaders."

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