By Susan Motander
Rehearsals have begun at the Taylor Performing Arts Center (TPAC) for this summer’s musical production from Monrovia Unified School District, The King and I. The production is the ninth in the District’s series of professional productions for the community and a part of its enhanced program emphasizing the arts.
At a time when many Districts are cutting back on the arts in an effort to cut costs, Monrovia Unified has renewed its commitment. The professional productions are just one aspect, but one that enhances the dramatic program at the high school by giving students an opportunity to interact with professionals.
Students at Monrovia High School and graduates of the school have an opportunity to audition for parts in each of the productions, and have earned parts in every one. The King and I is no exception. In this production, three recent graduates have been cast. Amittae Zamora and Samantha Pinto, both of whom just graduated from MHS this year, are part of the production as is Francesca De Francisco, another recent graduate. The King and I also features younger Monrovia residents (both MUSD and home-schooled students) as the royal children, fifteen in all.
In addition, there are also several local residents in the cast. Audrey and Jeffrey Loewen are regulars in the professional productions, each having earned roles in several of the projects. In addition, Brittany Freeth and Selena Lockerbie, Monrovia residents and Arcadia resident Selena Nguyen are part of the cast. This production, like all the others, is an opportunity for the community to enjoy a professional production, but it is also an opportunity for the community to participate.
Patrick Garcia, Director of Performing Arts for MUSD, and the producer for all the professional offerings points out that the program offers students the opportunity to work with professionals and to learn from them. He points out that part of the role of the director is not just to prepare the cast for its performance, but also to teach the cast members, especially the students.
This production is being directed by Andrew Fernando, who is returning to direct his 6th production for the TPAC. This time he is not only directing, but will also star as the king.
“Andrew knows that part of his job is mentoring the students in the production,” Garcia said. He praised not just Fernando as the director, but also Brigham Freeth, the musical director and Martyn Tyler, the stage manager who have both held those positions for each of the nine productions.
“I am very proud of Martyn,” Garcia said. “He is a Monrovia High School graduate who, after graduation worked as a professional in the theater perfecting the stage craft he began to learn at the high school.
“Now he has returned and been our stage manager for every productions, and has even designed the lighting for several of the productions. We are lucky to have him because he has been a teacher to the Monrovia students who work as the stage crew for every production, and he is a real team player.” Garcia explained, “There is nothing I have asked of him that he has not been able to do and that also serves as an example to the students.”
There will be five performances of The King and I: July 13th, 14th, and 15th at 8 p.m., July 15th at 2 p.m. and July 16th at 5 p.m. Tickets are available on line at Brown Paper Tickets and will soon be available directly at Monrovia Travel on Myrtle Avenue. Ticket prices range from $15 for students and seniors to $25 general admission and $35 for VIP seating. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. There is also a reduced rate of $10 for general admission to the Saturday matinee. The matinee is a real bargain for families to introduce children to a professional production.
Next week, look for an article outlining how Monrovia Schools are focusing on art while maintaining high academic standards.