DASOTA rocks

by Rick Grant
To get the lowdown on DASOTA’s newest and most ambitious staging of Elton John and Tim Rice’s rock musical, Aida, I met with director, Dr. Lee Beger at the school. Dr. Beger was busy juggling the thousand and one details of orchestrating this complex show.
Dancers were practicing in the atrium on their own time, and each of the principal cast members were attending voice lessons. Clearly, these students are highly motivated to make the production a success. In fact, students are chosen to attend DASOTA by audition, so the students’ motivation is a given.
The starting place for many of Jacksonville’s most talented youth is the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DASOTA – and simply DA by the current students and alum). The location was once the home of the South Jacksonville school and in 1985 became a leading part of the Duval County Magnet School Program that has massed over a dozen national education awards. DA code: #1. We believe that the arts define us. The school recently was named 2010 National GRAMMY Signature School.
I’ve known Dr. Beger for years from her stellar work with Shakespeare in the Park and other directorial triumphs, but it had been some time since I’d seen her. She was remarkably calm, coordinating the rehearsals.
“Aida is a rock musical written by Elton John and Tim Rice with memorable music, dance and choral numbers. The story is about two cultures coming together. It’s based on a folk tale by Leyonten Price and Verdi’s opera, ‘Aida.’ There are 35 kids in the cast, and it’s one of biggest productions DASOTA as ever staged.”
“A Nubian princess falls in love with an Egyptian soldier. The forbidden love affair blossoms, but the lovers are forced to face death or part forever. Their devotion in the face of death inspires the two cultures to put aside their differences and make peace not war.”
The principle cast includes Rebekah Peltz as Amneris, Nick Sacks as Radames, Courtney Carter as Aida, Chris Robertson as Zoser, and Jordan Bildrew as Mereb.
The production opens on November 18th at 7:30 pm on the main stage at DASOTA, 2445 San Diego Road.
If you miss Aida, you can check out the talented kids at DA throughout the month of December as DA’s performance troupe celebrates the holidays with their Piano Holiday Concert, the Festival of Carols, Winter Band & Orchestra concerts and the popular Cinematic Arts Winter Film Showcase. Also, Douglas Anderson’s annual Extravaganza is scheduled for February 12. Make your plans now to support the efforts of these talents kids and dedicated educators.

DASOTA was featured as one of four high school theatre troupes recently in the film Thespians. Prior to a screening during the recent Jacksonville Film Festival both Lee Beger and Shirley Sacks (Stanton) were presented Special Recognition awards by Michael Peitz of the Educational Theatre Association for their commitment and passion in theatre education. We are lucky to have talented educators throughout both DA and Stanton.