Rachel Ihasz loves being a part of the J.P. Taravella High School Theater program.
She recently played the mother, a lead role in the musical “Ragtime.” The production was one of five musicals selected by the Florida State Thespian Festival to be performed at the Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa on March 26. This means the J.P. Taravella High School drama program had one of the best musical performances in the entire state. The production includes 104 cast and crew and orchestra members of whom 45 are actors and actresses. To raise the $28,000 needed for the trip, “Ragtime” will be performed in the school auditorium on March 19 and 20.
“It was just amazing to play the lead in this show. We put in a lot of hard work and effort to make this show successful. It takes a ton of dedication and passion to have a successful show. Everyone put their best foot forward,” said Ihasz. A junior, she hopes to study for a career in musical theater.
Dashawn Perry played Coalhouse, a lead role in “Ragtime.” The character is seeking the American dream in the early 1900s. “This is a powerful role and I enjoyed playing it. I am also glad that we could perform at the State Thespian Festival. We were able to achieve this because of our passion and drive to be the best. We worked very hard in rehearsals,” said Perry.
The reason for the success of the J.P. Taravella theater program is fact that Lori Sessions, the director of the program for the past 21 years insists on high professional standards. She expects members of the program to perform and behave at a much higher standard than what would be expected of a regular high school production.
The program has been invited four other times to the Florida State Thespian Festival. The mostly recent invitation came in 2007 with the play Les Miserables. “It takes a lot of dedication and rehearsal hours to have a successful show. It is fun but beside the enjoyment factor, it is family, a place where everyone can belong. With 104 students all working towards a common goal, it brings them closer together. I think the over 21 years, we have built a real sense of community and it is especially nice to see the reaction from the audience.”
Last year, alumni of the J.P. Taravella theater program came together for a reunion to honor Sessions. They performed scenes from earlier plays.
And today’s students love being a part of the program and love to meet its high standards. Anthony Nieves is playing the role of Tateh, a third lead role. An immigrant from Latvia, he is also struggling to find success in America. “I love acting and I am happy to be a part of this production,” said Nieves. He hopes study film in college.
Leanne Antonio plays Sarah. “I like playing this role and being a part of the show,” she sai.
Mohammad Atallah enjoys playing the role of Father. “I love being a part of this show. For me it shows the importance of believing you can succeed and we have succeeded,” said Atallah.
Edgar Barrios is playing Harry Houdini. “I enjoy being part of this show because I can sing,” he said.
Mia Borselli, She is playing Evelyn Nesbit. “I am playing a real person. I like being in this show,” she said.
Todd Silver, the stage manager enjoys being a part of the play and is proud of his ability to make the show run with no problems. “It takes a lot of hard work but it is a good feeling to be part of the show,” he said.
“Ragtime” is a musical about people seeking the American dream in the early 1900s.