16 Hawthorne Favorites Return June 30 For Hawthorne Goes Classical (Lightly)

The June 30th benefit concert will have a 50-piece orchestra conducted by Christopher Kelts, a 1997 scholarship recipient who is now the music director of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra.

“Giving back” is the theme of Hawthorne Players’ special concert on June 30  at 8 p.m. at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre.  The acclaimed theatre company is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its Duckie DeMere Scholarship program.  Many of the former recipients are returning to Florissant to lend their talents once again in a gala program of light classical music.

The benefit concert will include 16 Hawthorne audience favorites singing with a 50-piece orchestra conducted by Christopher Kelts,  a 1997 scholarship recipient who is now the music director of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra.   Katie Collins, a 1999 recipient, will be the concertmaster, a role she filled in many Hawthorne pit orchestras while still a student and continues to do as a professional with regional opera companies.

Named after the late Hawthorne director and actress, Duckie DeMere Scholarships totaling $48,000 have been presented to 95  North County graduating seniors active in the performing arts since the first awards were given at the Best of Hawthorne show in 1992.

The June 30 concert, entitled “Hawthorne Goes Classical (Lightly)” will be directed by Paul Morris, veteran Hawthorne actor and singer (and the father of Emily Morris, a 1996 scholarship recipient).  His son Jeremy, a film producer and director in New York, will design the lights for this concert.

The program will include works by Verdi, Mozart, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Gilbert and Sullivan.  The finale will be Ralph Vaughan Williams’s moving “Serenade to Music,” conducted by Morris and featuring all 16  singers.

Maestro Kelts notes, “It brings me great pleasure to have been asked to join fellow scholarship recipients in this wonderful milestone for the Hawthorne Players.  This concert will be a wonderful reunion and a great culmination of years of generosity and art.  How does one say ‘thank you’ to an organization like the Hawthorne Players?  You live your art – in any way you can.  I do…they do.”

Other returning scholarship recipients include Alexander Ludwig, who teaches music at Brandeis and Holy Cross in Massachusetts.  He played cello as a high school student in many Hawthorne pit orchestras, and while still in college won Hawthorne’s  2002 “Best Director” award for the group’s production of “1776.”

Ludwig says that the Duckie DeMere scholarship was a springboard to his creative career. “It propelled me toward a wide range of productions with the Hawthorne Players, a wealth of experience that I have since parlayed into professional theater jobs in both St. Louis and Boston.  Playing this concert gives me a chance to revisit my roots.”

Beth (Scheiding) Smith is thrilled to be in another Hawthorne production.  The 2003 scholarship recipient notes, “You never really quit being a Hawthorne Player; you can’t quit your family.  You move away, you do another show, you take a break…but you are still a Hawthorne Player.   I am so excited to be coming home to Hawthorne this summer and seeing my family.”

Leah (McGougan) Poe is now an orchestra director in the Webster Groves School District.  She says that receiving the Duckie DeMere scholarship in 2002 helped her pursue her dream of studying music at the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music.  “With the aid of the scholarship, I was able to purchase my first semester textbooks, several of which I have kept to this day for reference and teaching.”

Mary (Schroeder) Honour, now a Production Stage Manager at the Missouri Repertory Theatre in Kansas City says,  “I’m so glad to participate in this concert because I feel that it is connecting me back to my artistic roots. My high school years in Florissant did a great job of fueling my curiosity and ambition, which served me well as I pursued my training in college and beyond.”

The very first Duckie DeMere Scholarship winners are still active in the performing arts.  Michael Blackmon is a dancer and choreographer in New York, and violinist Kim Scruggs performs regularly in Los Angeles.

Tickets are $15 and the proceeds will benefit the next generation of scholarship candidates.  To reserve tickets call (314) 921-5678. For more information:  www.hawthorneplayers.com. (story provided  by Larry Marsh, the  long-time Hawthorne Players director.)

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