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TRA Fine Arts debuts Pride & Prejudice to the world

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

TRA Pride and Prejudice chats TRA Pride and PrejudiceThe Tipton-Rosemark Academy Fine Arts Department is taking on a challenge this April.
Over the years, Lalania Vaughn’s program traditionally taken on a stage production. This year is no different, but there is a major twist. The TRA Fine Arts Department will present the world premiere musical “An Evening with the Characters of Pride and Prejudice.”
“The writers won’t be able to come,” Vaughn noted. “They’ll watch it on video. We want them to be proud because we are the first ones to tackle this show. It’s still a very big privilege and we want to do it justice.”
“An Evening with the Characters of Pride and Prejudice” will be on the stage of the TRA Performing Arts Center the week of April 13-19. This version of the Jane Austen novel was created through music and lyrics by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs.
The 34-member cast of TRA will be the first ones to bring the production to life. Vaughn and Assistant Director Todd Goode created this unique opportunity for the students last year e-mailing the writers.
Goode sent the TRA Fine Arts Department’s resume of awards and accomplishments from over the years. The list of national, regional and state awards must have impress the writers with TRA granted permission to perform the play first in May 2014.
Auditions started in December and now cast is nearing opening night. The main cast features 17 students and the overall production will shine the light on 13 seniors in their final TRA performance.
The leads of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitz William Darcy will be played by seniors Shelbi Sellers and Ethan Kaiser respectively. Pride and Prejudice is a by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. In the TRA production, senior Rachel Thomas will be on the stage the entire night as the narrator.
In the novel, the story follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet who deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. Elizabeth is one of five daughters growing up near London. There mother is trying to get all her daughters to the alter. Through this mission, the audience will see how the societies clash.
The cast will bring this novel to life through dancing, singing and acting.
“With singing, although this is a musical, we can’t just sing,” Sellers noted. “We have to act and sing. You can’t just set up there and be this proper British person then just burst out singing in modern day vocals. You have to connect the two.. The music and acting are one.
“‘Here is the hardest show ever, and you’re doing it first. Have fun,’” she added. “This is a huge honor and big responsibility.”
Senior Thomas Rinehart (Mr. Collins) said the cast is happy to take on the challenge in a world premiere production.
“With the acting, you have your style of how you would want to act and talk in front of people,” he noted. “You have to replace it with what your character wants to do. You’re not just singing, you’re acting.”
Carlie Long, who will be playing Lydia Bennet, said taking on a British accent, movement and singing in a first-time production takes courage.
“My character, I’m crazy about boys,” she noted. “I just want a husband so bad. It’s this one song I sing “I just can’t resist a Red Coat.” The boys come out dancing. So you have to sing, keep your character and like dance all at the same time. Sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m forgetting to sing. I have to do this dance move right.’”
Vaughn wanted Pride and Prejudice because it presented many challenges for her students. Goode and Vaughn persuaded the production because of the multiple female leads, vocal ranges and it’s a period piece.
Senior Mary Kate Watson said the leaders of the Fine Arts Department accomplished their goals.
“This is like the hardest music I’ve ever seen in a high school show,” she said. “By far it’s the hardest music we’ve taken on. It’s all classical.”
Vaughn said she has full confidence in her students because their talents and leadership skills. Cast members like Madison Cranford noted being a part of the Fine Arts Department builds character in students to be leaders.
“I’ve been in the department since seventh grade and got involved in my musical,” she said. “Being on stage and in front of people has definitely pushed me to want to lead others. So this past year I ran for president of our state. It was definitely because of this. I never would have had the courage to do it.”
Vaughn said the public is invited to come out later this month to watch her courageous students in the world premiere of Pride and Prejudice.
“One thing that I love these students, they just don’t do fine arts,” she recalled. “They do sports and are strong academically. They’re student leaders. Madison is the president of our whole state with Student Government. We’ve got students who are involved who are multifaceted. They are so involved. They’re so well-rounded.”
The  World Premiere Musical “An Evening with the Characters of Pride and Prejudice,” book, music and lyrics by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs will be on the campus of TRA April 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 at 7 p.m., and April 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $8.
The main cast members are Mary Kate Watson (Lady Catherine), Ethan Kaiser (Fitz William Darcy), Shelbi Sellers (Elizabeth Bennet), Heidi Miller (Mrs. Bennet), Mitchell Lawrence (Mr. Bennet), Ashley Sweeney (Jane Bennet), Tucker Pitman (Charles Bingley), Michaela Hooves (Caroline Bingley), Lexi Dillard (Anne D.), A.J. Kimberley (George Wickham), Carli Long (Lydia Bennet), Madison Cranford (Kitty Bennet), Rachel Thomas (Jane Austen), Sarah Lassiter (Mary Bennet), Jessi Edgerly (Charlotte Lucas), Thomas Rinehart (Mr. Collins) and Margaret Standridge (Louisa Hurst).

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