Tag Archives: arts

Brown dreams big, thrives, overcomes

Being different is acceptable at A Place To Be, an organization that celebrates the gifts of people with disabilities and helps them face life’s challenges using music, dance, creative writing and the dramatic arts. Last June, sophomore Veronica Brown starred in The Little Mermaid at A Place to Be in Middleburg.

“I played Aerial, the lead part,” Brown said. “It was fun because you had to make the costumes, the lights, and help with the makeup. My favorite part was falling in love with Prince Eric in the boat.”

Brown was born with Down syndrome, caused by one extra chromosome, which affects the development of the body and brain. Though the severity of the symptoms varies, certain physical characteristics distinguish someone with Down syndrome, such as a crease on the hands.

“It’s different because there are patterns on the hands, like this one has a line,” Brown said. “There’s a difference. I was born with it when I was little. They didn’t know that I had Down syndrome, and my mom noticed it while I was really little.”

Brown struggles with articulation in her performances, but she memorized all her lines, sang, and danced.

“Generally it’s hard to understand kids with Down syndrome,” Brown’s mother, Maite Dougherty, said. “That’s her biggest challenge, one that she continues to work on, through speech therapy at school, and also at A Place To Be. The memorization? No problem. She doesn’t have stage fright; she loves being on stage, she loves performing.”

Brown is talented in many areas. She plays soccer and basketball, and she bowls in the Special Olympics. She also loves to sing and dance.

“I like writing my songs,” Brown said. “My sister and I wrote a song, and it was really good actually, and that is my dream. My dream is to sing in Times Square. Then I’ll be on live TV in New York, and I’ll be in a band.”

Because Down syndrome makes learning a greater challenge for Brown, she takes her academic courses in classes for students who need extra support. Special Education Department head Amanda Mallory knows Brown well and attended her performance. Mallory describes Brown as outgoing and a natural talent; she cautions against underestimating people with disabilities.

“She’s got the kind of personality where she’s good for anything,” Mallory said. “Veronica will come and chat my ear off, but she can also be very shy. Down syndrome has a lot of physical characteristics. People see those characteristics and are put off, but they really shouldn’t be. Socially for Veronica, it’s [difficult] because if nobody’s talking to you, you’re going to assume that they don’t like you.”

Teens with Down syndrome are known for being very friendly, kind, and easy to get along with.
“I think the stereotyping is going to be her hardest challenge,” Dougherty said. “She can’t hide how she looks. I think she is prejudged a little bit, before she’s been given a chance. [She is] a person who is very much a teenager, like the rest of you, but what’s stopping her from connecting with other people is that people shy away from her first because they don’t understand.”

Brown has been to A Place To Be for other activities, including music therapy, speech therapy, and theater improv, and she participated in last year’s play Aladdin. This year, the cast of Little Mermaid had nearly 40 people.

“The production is really great,” Dougherty said. “It’s very professional – the lighting, the stage set, the costumes – it’s quite elaborate. They take it very seriously.”

The show lasted three nights, with 150 people in the audience each night. Brown’s family came, and Mallory brought her family to see it. Brown signed autographs.

“The self confidence is incredible,” Dougherty said. “You know the feeling when you’ve done a good job; people are clapping, people are congratulating you. People are noticing that you exist. The kids get acceptance, exposure, confidence, a lot of clapping, and a lot of laughing. Everybody has something to offer, and they find it at A Place To Be. It’s brilliant.”

Brown will act in another play called Same Sky this fall.

“I was really brave because all of my family was there – my sisters, my dad, my mom, my stepdad, and my cousin,” Brown said. “You just have to memorize your lines and sing the lyrics of the songs, and just keep on practicing until you get it. Acting is one of my favorite things. I think it’s really good for me.”

~Jake Lunsford, staff reporter


Hello, Dolly! to open in April

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famed musical, Hello, Dolly!, and the school, which also turned 50, joins the celebration this spring with its production of the musical. Senior Sadie Carr stars as Dolly Levi, a widowed, brazen matchmaker well-known for her “meddlings” in the affairs of men and women.
“There’s a lot of audience involvement, and I love that,” director Melanie Ankney said. “It’s energetic and quick-paced; the music is fun and memorable, as well.”
Dolly attempts to find a wife for wealthy grump Horace Vandergelder, played by junior Brice Ternois —all while subtly hoping to catch him for herself. Vandergelder’s young niece, Ermengarde (junior Baylee Alerding), along with his clerks, Cornelius Hackl (senior Thomas Hooker) and Barnaby Tucker (freshman Ben Sampson), also gets mixed up in the matchmaking.
“I like Dolly; she’s very mischievous,” said Carr. “She has a big personality, so she’s a lot a fun to play. Also, I like that there’s a lot of singing, as opposed to its being a dance-heavy show.”
Because of the renovations to the science and music wings, the musical must be held a month earlier than the show usually opens, and the cast and crew must use the new building for rehearsal space. The old green room and dressing rooms are also unavailable because of renovations.
“Our temporary green room is the student lounge in the new building,” Ankney said. “Bob Rankin does all of the technical work for the show; I would call him a technical genius. He’s wiring the student lounge so that they can hear what’s going on, because there’s no room backstage.”
The show has a new choreographer, Kim Bosch van Drakenstein, who adds a vital spark to dance rehearsals, according to Ankney.
“She has a very strong background in ballroom dancing,” Ankney said. “She’s just delightful. People are enjoying working with her.”
As with other shows, Hello, Dolly! has an army of student leaders who aid Ankney in production: senior Emma Nobile leads the orchestra pit, senior Courtney Rice is the dance captain, and Carr, with senior Thomas Hooker, are vocal captains. Hooker is also the show’s assistant director, and his duties have expanded this year to include directing the ensemble.
“In a musical, there’s often the feeling that the principal characters are more important,” Hooker said. “I’m trying to help them understand how important the ensemble is to the show. The ensemble also has a lot of people who are new to theater. I want to make sure they leave this show wanting to do more theater.”
Hooker rounds out his participation in the musical as an actor; he plays Cornelius Hackl, one of two clerks in Horace’s profitable mill.
“It’s difficult to play him because he is 33 years old, yet he’s very naïve,” Hooker said. “But he’s a fun character to play because he’s so inexperienced – he’s never been with a woman.”
Hello, Dolly! premiers on April 11 at 7 p.m. Successive shows are on April 12, 19, and 20 at 7 p.m., and April 20 at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $12, and $10 for students and senior citizens.

~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief

“Richard III” to debut this weekend

Shakespeare Troupe’s production of “Richard III” will be performed in the new cafeteria on Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.

Written in 1591 by William Shakespeare, the tragedy follows the rise to power, as well as the short lived reign, of Richard III of England

“[Richard III] is considered by many to be Shakespeare’s most famous and entertaining work,” troupe director senior Marina Finelli said. “It is culturally enriching, gut wrenching, and exciting.”

Strong acting by troupe members is reason enough to come out for the show, according to Finelli.

“They interpret the language so well that audiences won’t have to focus to understand the plot,” Finelli said. “They also make the twisted manipulation and raw emotion so realistic that it has me on the edge of my seat every day, even though I’ve watched them perform countless times.”

~Abby Seitz, online editor

“Red”: Fourth album sells Swiftly

“YES!! FINALLY!!” I screamed, when Taylor Swift’s new album, Red, hit stores on Oct 22. And, yes, the album is spectacular. T-Swift maintains the “I hate you, you loser!” aspect to her break-up songs, and it’s perfectly displayed in her hit single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” If you’ve been in a toxic relationship you just couldn’t escape, it’s the perfect song to blast from the radio with the windows down while screaming lyrics at the top of your lungs… but I digress.

However, the majority of the break-up songs on Red to posses a new quality that has not been seen before in T-Swift’s music: maturity. There is an element of somber acceptance in the tunes, including my personal favorite, “All Too Well,” which recounts particularly pleasant memories of a past relationship and how she remembers them… all too well. Yes, I was brought to tears.

Although the album has plenty of break-up anthems that will leave listeners crying and laughing (but mostly crying), there are also quite happy tunes to jam to. “Starlight,” was inspired by Ethel and Bobby Kennedy and describes a night back in ’45 when they snuck into a yacht party and had a blast. Dancing with the ones you love is a popular theme in Red; “22” is about a night Swift and friends went out for a night on the town.

Red is good because it displays a wide range of topics, which isn’t always seen in T-Swift’s albums. Usually her lyrics are about how she loves a boy or how she hates a boy- black and white. This time, however, Swift expresses the fragile vulnerability that comes with the pain of heartbreak in her lyrics, and in her vocals.

Swift writes her own music and often hides messages about other celebrities in her lyrics. When I listened to the album for the first time, I kept wondering who the songs were about.  Well, luckily Swift leaves a code in the album guide that helps fans make educated guesses as to who the songs are about. Speculation says some songs are about Love and Other Drugs actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who reportedly dated the singer for a few months. Others may be about Connor Kennedy, which makes sense considering she wrote a song for his grandmother. But unfortunately Swift keeps her songs on a “you know who you are” basis and leaves the rest of us wondering.

What is important, however, is that T-Swift’s songs are easy for teens to relate to. It feels good to hear a song that expresses a feeling you didn’t know how to put into words or that captures a situation you’ve experienced perfectly. Does Swift play it a little middle school when she calls out all of her exes in song? Sure. But that doesn’t make blasting her anthems in your room, or car, or headphones any less fun. I loved this album, and you should too.

~Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director