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Alumna’s play to be performed on campus

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The Vonnie Borden Theatre is known for putting on successful productions, but the next one may just shatter box office records. For the first time since 1986, a musical will be held in Vonnie Borden.

Musical fans can reclaim their seats in the Vonnie Borden Theatre with the premiere of “High and Mighty” on Tuesday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, November 21 at 7:30 p.m.

 “High and Mighty” was written by alumna Donna Gay Anderson, who is the daughter of Vonnie Borden, and is directed by theatre professor James Winter.

Anderson, whose mother was a professor of theatre for 20 years, describes her decision to create work that helps to continue her mother’s legacy.

“My mother was a fine teacher and director,” said Anderson.  “I hope that my work reflects her standard for good theatre.  She was very understated and had a dry, clever sense of humor.  She loved strong characters in a play, whether they were good or bad.  My mother has been gone for so long that many people do not remember her at all. I hope this production, written by me, brings back fond memories for those who knew her.”

According to Winter, choosing the right cast has made the script come alive.

“As a director, it’s 80 percent of the process of the show,” said Winter.

The cast will consist of 11 actors including Dr. Steven Rushing, Michelle Guillot, Rachel Davis, Damian Faul, Neal Eli, Jaimee Rome, Provence Hatfield, Kalee Broussard, Olivia Waguespack, Shelly Sneed and Jordin Jones.

Associate professor of voice Dr. Alissa Rowe, professor of vocal arts Dr. Steven Rushing, instructor of dance Alison Maraman, stage manager Lydia Caballero and composers for the production alumni Bridget and Drew Zeringue, served as the creative team for “High and Mighty.”

According to Anderson, the production focuses on the life of a group of young adults in a New York City Upper East Side Presbyterian Church.  The main characters, Caroline, played by Michelle Guillot and Bernie, who is played by Kalee Broussard, meet in an Upper East Side  Manhattan church in the mid-1980s. Both women meet Will, a new seminary interim, who is played by Damian Faul. Will becomes friends with the women and eventually develops a romantic relationship with both of them. With the possibility of a scandal arising, one character even commits a crime inside of the church.

Winter became involved with the musical when Anderson asked him to read the initial draft that she wrote and offer guidance. According to Anderson, Winter was intrigued by her story, and he wanted to help develop the script and produce the musical.

 “I’ve never directed a musical, but it’s fun to boldly go where you’ve never gone before as an artist,” said Winter.

According to Winter, the story and characters are different than what a normal musical offers.

Rushing, who plays Dr. Robert McFee, describes how the music in the production reflected the emotional processes of the characters.

“From my perspective, the composer has chosen a variety of styles and languages,” said Rushing. “Eclectic would be a good word to describe the music in this work. The various musical styles utilized for the work support the myriad of emotions and life-changing events of the characters.”

Winter accredits some of the success of the production to the combination of faculty, students and alumni.

“It’s a huge interdisciplinary endeavor for the entire Fine and Performing Arts program,” said Winter. “It’s really neat for students to get to work with one another in a way they’re not used to.”

Auditions for the musical were in May and practices began in mid-August, also including summer meetings.

Junior vocal music education major Rachel Davis plays C2, Caroline’s “conscience” in the production.

“Ultimately, I get to say all of the things Caroline would never say out loud,” said Davis. “We all have that inner voice, whether it be our little angel or demon, that whispers in our ear.” According to Davis, she fell in love with her character and felt connected to the story.

“That’s what Donna Gay is so good at; making the story hit home,” said Davis. “These may be based on real people and real events, but they can touch every heart in the audience.”

Senior vocal music education major Guillot wants audience members to remember the significant, real life lessons that can be taken away from the musical.

“I would personally like the audience to keep four themes in mind: the struggle between the inner and outer self, the layers of human beings, things aren’t always black and white and what people’s focus should be on within a church community,” said Guillot. “I personally hope viewers will be able to reflect on these themes within their own lives, not just in the context of the show.”

Caballero wants audiences to appreciate the work that the entire cast has created.

“It’s a show worth seeing more than once,” said Caballero. “The music is exciting, the set is crazy and there’s a secret.” 

Anderson expects for the audience to be thrilled from the moment the curtains rise until they exit the theatre.

“I hope they will become invested in the lives and struggles of the characters on stage,” said Anderson. “They can definitely expect a good production. I want them to leave thinking about the characters, their stories and their struggles.  At some point in the play, every character is hiding something, or they refer to a time when they were hiding something.  That is how life is. These are regular people, with regular faults, some extreme, who happen to meet in a church. That part happens every day.”

According to Winter, “High and Mighty” will contain mature adult content that is not appropriate for children and young teenagers. Tickets are 15 dollars for general admission, and 10 dollars for non-Southeastern students and senior citizens. Southeastern students will get in free with their student ID. For ticket reservations, call 985-549-2115. 




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