Having reviewed Jacksonville’s 9-12th grade school of the arts, Douglas Anderson a number of occasions, I was invited to review a possible future DA class probably 7 to l0 years in the future, the 2nd grade classes of Pine Forest. Each class of this elementary school puts on a themed show sometime in the year. The lucky 2nd grade had the opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pine Forest, and did so with music,dance and a lot of gusto.
The show was scripted by one of the teachers and choreographer of the show, Laura Hammock and Juan Unzueta, Theatre Jacksonville’s Outreach Educational Director.
This fast paced show that ran just a little over l/2 hour, traced the history of the school from when it started in l961. Pine Forest was originally an African-American elementary school, but later became integrated and in the 70s became a school of the arts.
The play featured five students who acted as narrators. Kelonna Watkins played the music teacher Mrs. Webster who had a scrap book she had kept of those times. Four students, Nhari Barnes, Elizabeth Cohen, Weslee Sampel and Daniel Pernar sat on stage left and made believe they were reading the book while introducing the musical numbers.
Over on the left was a screen on which photos and videos were projected that greatly enhanced our knowledge of those years. Pictures and actual news reels of John F. Kennedy, the President when this school was started opened the show followed by many images of the years and personalities that followed. I would be willing to bet that this was the first time these students had ever seen the landing on the moon by our astronauts.
The entire 2nd grade performers of eighty filled the entire stage and surrounding aisles as they sang a song about the 60 to open the show.
The first dance number featured Mrs. MacDowell’s class. They first presented the story of Rosa Parks and her heroic bus ride that changed the world. This was followed by dances of that year. I loved the young ladies wearing hats and clothing of that era. Included in this ensemble were Arik Ancelin, Thor Donald, Ryan Dubas, Shakenya Fulton, Myla Hubbard, Dylan Martin, Daniel Pernar, Connor Peters, Kailey Pippin, Sarah Powell, Kendal Reilly, Omar Roberts, Angelia Rodgers, Paige Rowe and Logan Veal.
Dance # 2 featured Ms. Carpenter and Mrs. Drawdy’s class, with the theme from the movie “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” and the students wore a cute modified dog suits, and looked like little Dalmatians.(This one was my favorite, I have a fondness for dog suits) Appearing as the dancing dogs were Astrid Harris, Brenna Hughes, Ruth Jennings, Landon Jin, Olivia Lyle, Isaiah Meythaler, Jordan Newkirk, Karen Nishimura, Layla Pelsey, Aubrey Pippin, Audrey Plauche, Serena Price, Isabel Rivera, Holland Smith, and Josue Torres.
Dance 3 featured music from Motown with Mrs. Hammock’s class. The dances were dress in their Motown best and included Jillian Downs, Ka’Ron Forest, Noel Garvie, Abbey Goodwin, Justin Hasmath, Dylan Little, Zoe Lovett, D’Andre Means, Emma Mee, Krista Mee, Izabella Miller, Mackenzie Murphy, Kimberly Pino, Weslee Sampel, Jada Smith, Caleb Troxel, Landon Veal and Areana Warren.
Dance # 4 was Pony Time and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” featuring Mrs. Behner’s class. Again each boy and girl was dressed to the nines and included: Anya Bennett, Rachel Brown, Carie Compton, Damien Dennis, Elena Every, Christian Fisher, Olivia Higgins, Mya McNeal,Jasmin Ochoa, Jamarion Persaud, Ernest Rodriquez, Shane Rubin, Adanna Smith, Taylor Souder, Chyna Toban, Phoebe Turquette, Justin Velez and Kelonna Watkins.
The final dance # 5, The Beatles were from Mrs. Carpenter and Mrs. Drawdy’s class. Judging from the audience reaction, this imation of the Beatles was probably the most popular of all the segments. Appearing in the tribute to the British boys were Maryam Aljame, Sydney Bagrow, Nhari Barnes, Ethan Black, Benjamin Blue, Katherine Bossuot, Gavin Breslin, Elizabeth Cohen, Jacob Desuyo, Kayla Dickey, Brian Earls, Faith Elliot, Shannon Flaherty, Matthew Hallett and Andrew Harding.
The support staff included Jill Herkel as Technical Director, Juan Unzueta as designer of the T-shirt and the program/playbill by Leigh Carpenter which was very comprehensive and even included some advertisers. There were many other volunteers who assisted in various ways to make this a success.
Seeing this show was absolutely a delight and I was impressed with the very dedicated performances by the entire student body. With a cast of over 80 participants Pine Forest may hold the unofficial record for the number of actors and dances on stage for a performance in Jacksonville. It was well staged and fun for everyone.
As you no doubt have heard, the Duval County School Board is facing drastic cuts in programs for the year beginning in September. Cuts include everything, and possibly including deep cuts in sports and the arts. The dedicated folks at Pine Forest School have formed “The Friends of Pine Forest of the Arts Foundation for education purposes but more specifically to maintain and enhance the rigor and quality of the arts education at Pine Forest School of the Arts. They are in the process of becoming a Not-For-Profit 501C3 organization and beginning their fund raising efforts for the upcoming year. Want to get involved visit www.pfsota.com or follow them on face book at “Friends of Pine Forest School of the Arts Foundation.”
I am sure that in that “cast of thousands” I watched perform so enthusiastically today I saw a future Tony Award Winner or a possible Oscar Winner. As Fat Waller use to say “one never knows do one?” Thanks for our invitation to the 50th birthday party.