Aside from high school auditoriums and outdoor amphitheaters, there are not many facilities in Wellington that can house a theater production company seeking to seat an audience of 250 people. But this isn’t stopping some advocates from trying to make this dream a reality.
Terry Reed, president of Theatre Arts Productions Inc. or TAP, and his newly elected board, are hoping a theater facility may be something the community would like to see in the future — a permanent theater facility where local groups can bring artistic expression and creative enrichment to the public.
“We are trying to create a vibe,” Reed said. “We want to bring amazing talent to the stage. We want everyone to join us. No one is turned away. We want the community to come out and see what is going to be the future in Theatre Arts Productions.”
TAP was only just formed and is awaiting its formal nonprofit status, but the passion behind the new endeavor goes back many years. Jaycie Cohen is the artistic director, and the daughter of an actor, granddaughter of a dancer and great-granddaughter of a silent movie actress. A Dreyfoos School of the Arts graduate, she is 21 years old and a senior at Stetson University in the theater arts program.
Cohen has already acted in, directed and worked behind the scenes as stage manager in many productions. Some of the productions she has under her belt include Legally Blond, Under the Big Top, Cinderella the Ballet, Hansel & Gretel Musical, Les Misérables and Boxer Shorts.
Now, Cohen is directing 28 students under the Theatre Arts Production banner for upcoming performances of The Lion King Jr. The production will be staged at Wellington High School on Aug. 2-4 and Aug. 9-11.
“Right now, we have 28 students,” Cohen said. “The students are learning acting, singing, dancing, costume, makeup and set design. We learn everything that is involved in putting on a production. We have rehearsals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. We are currently rehearsing at Adriana Zabala’s Voice & Music Academy in Greenacres.”
As director, Cohen gets to see the raw talent in the community. Right now, she is directing actors from 4 to 18 years old. The current Lion King production focuses more on young actors, but future productions will encompass adults as well.
“After everyone comes in and auditions, we evaluate how they will fit for each character,” she explained. “I want to be sure they can sing the part. I try to get them out of their comfort zones, making choices on their own. I want to choose who is best for the role and make the show the best it can be.”
After Cohen and her team evaluated the actors, they made the decisions on who to cast. They sent the cast list out in an e-mail to those who auditioned. The next day, rehearsals began.
“We had a meet-and-greet, and we played theater games to get everyone warmed up,” Cohen said. “From this moment on, every rehearsal is specific to each category.”
Each rehearsal works on a different aspect of the show.
“Mondays are musical rehearsals, where they learn their songs. Wednesday is acting and directing, so they learn all their blocking, [such as, where they stand]. They learn how to embody and become their characters,” Cohen said. “Friday is dance day, so they learn all of their choreography.”
The rehearsals have moved into the summer months, now bringing the company to a mid-range point. They are getting closer to the first performance in August.
“The whole show is blocked,” Cohen said. “The cast knows all of their music; they know all of their lines. They know most of their dances, but this is something that comes last. Next, we will perfect the scenes. All of the backstage goings on like costumes, lighting and sound will come together as we rehearse.”
Cohen is excited to see the performances of ninth-grader Kaitlyn Bost, who plays Mufasa, and ninth-grader Mason Materdomini, who plays Scar.
“Kaitlyn came right in and jumped into performing,” Cohen said. “She had no hesitations at all. She was ready to play, have fun, do her work and work hard learning her lines. Mason has impressed me the most. He has blossomed. He takes direction very well. He is outstanding in everything he does.”
While the current show will be at WHS, the long-term goal is to find a space that could be retrofitted and used for artistic endeavors. They want to find a permanent stage to perform, where classrooms can be used to educate and where participants come to enjoy the artistic experience of acting, screenwriting, costume designing and more.
For more information about TAP, call Reed (561) 723-6154 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the company at www.tapstars.org. To help out more directly, you can donate to the company’s productions through GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/jaycie-cohens-fundraiser.