ArtSpeak! returns to WMHS tomorrow with LaChanze, Alysha Umphress

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Jade Pinkowitz

ArtSpeak!, a free program based in Washington D.C. dedicated to supporting the arts, comes to Watkins Mill High School.

Watkins Mill High School will host ArtSpeak! tomorrow, January 23 at 7 pm. ArtSpeak! is a free program based in Washington D.C. produced by Bethesda Based Marketing Program Shugoll Research in an attempt to support the arts.

ArtSpeak! includes panel discussions, autograph signings, photo-ops, and performances from the headlining artists who have experience in the field of acting, singing, and performing. The event allows for direct interactions with the performers and can be a good opportunity for anyone thinking of pursuing a career in the arts.

It also allows Watkins Mill students to be ambassadors, allowing them to work one-on-one with the performers. “[As student ambassadors,] we help advertise the event, set up during the day, and assist the actors,” senior and ArtSpeak! ambassador Kelly Mok said.

This year, ArtSpeak! will host Tony Award winner LaChanze as one of the two performing artists. LaChanze won a Tony Award in 2006 for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Celie in The Color Purple from 2005 to 2006. She was also nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.

Additionally, LaChanze played the leading role Ti Moune in the original Broadway cast of Once on this Island, which is this spring’s school musical. “I’m really excited to meet her, I think it’s really cool that I have the opportunity to meet her and see her perform since I’m going to be playing the role she played on Broadway,” senior Taylor Leonard said.

Broadway star Alysha Umphress has also joined the ArtSpeak! program this year. Umphress is known for her role as Hildy the taxi driver in Broadway’s revival of On the Town as well as her appearance as Paula in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever on Broadway.

“I think it’s important [for kids to experience ArtSpeak!] because the county has gone to great lengths to give [students] this opportunity and it’s one that can’t be easily offered in other ways,” English and theater teacher Scott Tarzwell said.

Students can also win autographed memorabilia or other prizes through trivia and other games. Even though the program is aimed toward high school students, the event is open to anyone in the community and admission is first come first serve. The program usually lasts around an hour and 45 minutes.

“I hope [this helps kids] better appreciate the arts,” Tarzwell added. “A lot of schools are discarding [performing arts] programs but Watkins Mill is embracing them.”

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