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FOR PRIZERY PERFORMERS, THE FUTURE IS NOW

SoVaNow.com / August 09, 2010
Special to the News & Record

After more than eight frantic weeks, three uplifting musicals and bringing more than 4,500 clapping patrons to their feet, The Prizery art center’s inaugural Summer Theatre Celebration is over. The cast and crew departed yesterday.

To where?

A sampling of their destinations, and their impressions of Halifax County:

Elizabeth Telford, who went from the gum-chopping Brooklynite in “Dames as Sea” to the singer of the unforgettable “I’ll Be Seeing You” to Daddy Warbucks’ prim assistant in “Annie,” is headed back to back to Shorter University for her senior year.

South Boston News
Elizabeth Tefford


Says Telford: “The Prizery has been a wonderful experience for me. I have learned a great deal here and have had a fantastic summer. Halifax County was so welcoming and supportive of all of us, and we got to have a blast doing what we love to do!”

As for her long-term future, “Every performance opportunity is a learning experience, and I’m not planning on quitting anytime soon!”

And thank heaven for that.

Christopher Lewis, the sailor swain in “Dames at Sea” and the creepy Rooster in “Annie” also returns to Shorter. He concedes that his departure will be “a little sad” but that the musical theatre world is so small that cast members will probably work together again somewhere.

His Halifax memories?

Beach volleyball at Edmunds Park and hanging out at the Edgewood Townhomes’ swimming pool.

“I love small towns. This is just what I’m used to,” Lewis said.

Jesse Graham, the diva of “Dames at Sea” and the hilarious Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” heads — as many a young performer does — to New York City for her next job.

Hannah Seymour (the ingÈnue in “Dames” and the floozy Lily in “Annie” has one more year in college, where she’ll focus on getting a job to pay back her student loans. A national tour would be nice, as would a stint at a Disney park in Tokyo or Paris.

But the ambitious actress also has a timeline: Five years to Broadway, she vows.

Mark her words.

Seymour is proud of her work here. “The roles were fantastic. Two Bernadette Peters roles. Can’t argue with that!”

Seymour did “a whole array of things” in Halifax, from a one-night bartending gig to two horseback rides. “I love it here,” she said. “It reminds me of ‘The Notebook.’”

In addition to growing out his hair (shaved to be a convincing Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” Robby Owenby this fall returns to the Gainsville Theatre Alliance. He aims to get aboard a national or international tour to indulge his passion for travel.

South Boston News
Robby Owenby


“I had a wonderful time,” he said, praising the community as friendly and warm. “I love eating and food, and the Bistro and Molasses, they were, like, so good.” (The young visitors were treated occasionally to excellent dinners.)

Connor Davis — chances are you didn’t actually see the omnipresent behind-the-scenes stage manager — will direct “True West” by Sam Shepard at James Madison University this fall.

“The experience of living in Halifax County has been wonderful. For me it has been like stepping into Grover’s Corner from Thornton Wilder’s play ‘Our Town,’’’ Davis said. “No matter where you go, people will always greet you with a smile on their face. Everyone either knows or knows of everybody that lives in the community. A wonderful community that is dedicated to the arts.”

Next summer Davis looks to shift gears from stage management to directing.

Joseph Rosko (handsome heel-clicking butler Drake in “Annie” this fall hangs up his tap shoes for — watch out — cleats.

South Boston News
Joseph Rosko


“I will be the head coach of my hometown’s eighth grade football team until November.”

But after that, he, too, is bound for New York City.

That’s not to say he didn’t like Southern Virginia.

Out of my four years of summer stock I have never felt more at home and welcomed by a community than I have here in South Boston. From Chris Jones, John [Fulton] at the bed and breakfast, Caffe Peroni, Bistro 1888, Molasses Grill, Angela Lewis, Mary Archer Osborne, Boo Evans, Mr. and Mrs. Holt Evans, Chris’s church [First Presbyterian in South Boston], and especially my host Jeff Reed,” gushes Rosko, who kept up his football physique working out with Dave Gluhareff at SoBo Fitness.

“My favorite show this summer was definitely the ‘All Night Strut.’ It is a very relaxed show. It was like going out with all my friends every night.”

Tyler McKenzie will return to Western Carolina University where he’ll choreograph the moves for the football and basketball dance teams. He’s already been cast in a play there.

South Boston News
Tyler McKenzie


As for his summer here, “It’s been great,” said McKenzie, who mostly danced but belted out “Operator” in “Strut.” “It’s been a huge learning experience” for someone only a sophomore in college, he says.

Casi Harris will head directly to Baltimore for a choreography assignment. Back at college in Birmingham, Ala., she has job interviews, including for director of dance at a megachurch.

South Boston News
Casi Harris



“It was a complete blessing to be in a cast where we all get along,” Harris said. Plus, she got a chance to put aside her dancing and sing a solo in “All Night Strut” — something she didn’t know she’d be doing when she arrived.

Her summer anecdote: When she wasn’t in rehearsals, Harris was among those making a low-budget film, “The Pool Man.” In the town parking lot behind Caffe Peroni, she was in a sports bra and another young woman was in a swimsuit (the movie involves a pool caretaker trying to kill swimmers, hence the skimpy attire), when police came wheeling up one night.

“I thought we were going to have a lot of explaining to do,” she said.

Instead, out of the squad car popped Officer Julianna Berry, laughing and shaking her head. Berry is also the mother of one of the “Annie” orphans and so she recognized the filmmakers. It’s a small-town thing.

Jon Latane, the indefatigable pianist for rehearsals and shows, will return to Chapel Hill, N.C., to his private music students and begin looking toward graduate school. Summer theatre was a departure for Latane, who typically accompanies classical singers, who tend to be older and more, well, stuffy, he said.

Musical theatre types are more, well, fun.

Tia Reed, the gracile dancer, is headed to Disneyworld as an actor. After that: graduate school.

Bradley McKenzie has a master’s degree in theatre; he’d like to teach at the university level. He’s proud of his work. His favorite? “All Night Strut.”

“I liked the music and the look of the show,” said McKenzie, who worked with lighting and sets.

Shelby Cade is hoping to get licensed to teach high-school theatre; she got her chance to deal with children as the Orphan Wrangler — the handler of the two casts of orphans in “Annie,” of whom she grew quite fond. She also juggled props.

Cade spent her leisure time with the other tech personnel, cooking dinner together and playing board games. For coffee, she made runs to Starbucks in Danville. But for ice cream she had to go no farther than Dairy Dell in Riverdale.

Mary Beth Linehan worked on costumes but was a fetching Hooverite in “Annie.”

Back at her college, “I am hoping to appear in ‘Noises Off!’ and I will be designing the props for our production of ‘Medea.’ I am still planning on working in either props or onstage next summer,” Linehan said.

The little ones, too — the orphans — got a fantastic stage experience and made friends throughout the county. At the weekend’s cast party, they traded e-mail addresses.

Prizery Executive Director Chris Jones, who doubled as the musicals’ director, had only praise for the young men and women he spent so many waking hours with: “I was very fortunate to find the caliber of talent and discipline that I did” in auditioning more than 800 this past winter. “I think they could all work — potentially feed themselves — in the theatre and dance worlds.

And to answer the question on everyone’s lips: What about next summer?

“We’re working on selecting shows,” Jones said.



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