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The Show Must Go On: Annual Booker High School Senior Showcase Goes Virtual

Girl in costume on stage singing
Chuck Manahan
Emma Johnson, as Mae Tucker in Booker High School's 2019 winter musical, "Tuck Everlasting."

In early February, students in the Visual and Performing Arts program at Sarasota’s Booker High School had just begun rehearsals for their annual spring musical.

Launching the show “Seussical” was an especially exciting time for the seniors.

Emma Johnson of Sarasota says the close-knit class has performed dozens of shows together over the past four years.

"My first musical here was James and the Giant Peach and I was the Ladybug and that was one of my favorites cause it was the first time I got to be in a musical here and it was such a special experience," she said. "I also did Cinderella last year and I was the Fairy Godmother and that was really fun."

But just one month later, Booker, like all schools across Florida, closed because of coronavirus. There would be no final live performance, no last dance, and no annual VPA senior showcase on the Booker High School stage. But if performers know anything, it’s this: The show must go on.

On Saturday, The Booker High School Visual & Performing Arts Theatre Department hosted “Blink,” a  live stream performance to commemorate its senior class.

Johnson--who was voted as this year's Best Vocalist at Booker High-- sang a tune from her home. It was her final virtual bow before heading to Otterbein University in Ohio next school year to study Musical Theater.  

Girl in Victorian costume holding a bag and singing on stage
Credit Booker High School
Emma Katz in "Hello Dolly, a musical performed at Booker High School in Sarasota.

“Seeing someone perform in their home adds a very personal touch that couldn't be achieved on a stage,” she said.

Her good friend Emma Katz performed a song from her family’s patio in Sarasota. Katz, who will pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre at Florida State University, got her first starring role playing the title role in “Hello Dolly” during her sophomore year.

“I really think that I grew a lot because I took more risks,” she said. "I learned how to go out of my comfort zone and be someone completely different, yet I learned that I could still relate to her.  I think that is important for an actor to learn.”

The title, “Blink,” represents the change from childhood to adulthood that the students feel happened “in the blink of an eye.” While it also has new significance in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, they had decided on the title and theme prior to spring break.

Young man smiling at camera.
Credit Rebecca Abrahamson
Senior Timarus Foulks will be pursuing Musical Theatre at Florida Atlantic University next school year.

Typically an event held live in Booker’s VPA Theatre, the Class of 2020 senior showcase is an entire  original show with full artistic and directorial freedom. This year’s virtual showcase featured performances of song and dance, along with some Zoom comedy sketches.

Senior Timarus Foulks, who will be pursuing Musical Theatre at Florida Atlantic University next school year, says he still remembers the thrill of being cast in his first show at Booker High School.

"Ever since then I would just work on myself and try to do the best that I can so that I could keep showing them that I was trying to learn as much as I could so that I could continue to be a presence in the shows and do my own thing, instead of playing sports like my brothers did," he said.

This year, Covid-19 has moved all VPA senior showcases online, and all will be housed at the bookerVPA.com website; the Theatre Department is the only group premiering the work in a live stream setting, with the hopes of creating “unity at home” as families and fans watch these students in their final VPA performance.

Boy with curly blond hair and sunglasses sits in a lawn chair and looks at camera
Credit Rebecca Abrahamson
Booker High School senior Danny DeLongaig at the silver cord ceremony to honor students graduating from Booker High School's VPA program. He will pursue Musical Theatre at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio next school year.

The Class of 2020 from all Visual and Performing Arts Departments comprises 46 of Booker High School’s 250 graduates; 96% have committed to college for next year.

On Friday, Booker High School hosted a celebration to honor seniors outside of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. Students were able to collect a graduation gift and a ceremonial silver cord, a component of the graduation regalia that symbolizes their completion of the VPA program. 

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