A living legend of stage and screen is coming to Sacramento State on April 30 to share his experience with students and the public during a free Musical Theatre Master Class.
Tony Award-winning actor and dancer Ben Vereen will visit the campus next week as a part of Wellness Through the Arts, Sacramento’s (WTA) inaugural essay awards.
Vereen, who is best known for his roles in the Broadway musical Pippin and the groundbreaking TV miniseries Roots, will preside over the class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. At 7 that evening, he will present cash awards to winners from Ben Vereen’s First Annual Wellness Through the Arts, Sacramento Essay Awards, a competition among local high school students.
Both events are hosted by the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance and will be held at the University Theatre. The evening gathering is the inaugural event for Vereen’s Sacramento chapter of WTA.
Vereen created WTA for young people struggling with B.O.L.D. (Bullying, Obesity, Low Self-Esteem, and Diabetes), inviting them to embrace the performing arts as a means to a healthier lifestyle.
As part of that effort, students from Luther Burbank and McClatchy high schools, as well as Natomas Charter School, took part in an essay competition titled “My Best Day,” about how the arts have helped them address health issues. The best of those will be presented during the 7 p.m. awards showcase. A panel of judges then will award the top two cash prizes of $400 each.
The program also will include Sac State student dance performances choreographed by Linda Goodrich, founder of Sacramento/Black Art of Dance, and Pepper Von, co-owner of Step I Dance and Fitness; plus a music offering by Natomas Charter School’s One Voice ensemble and a special dance performance by Luther Burbank High School students.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Theatre and Dance and the university to embrace the arts in our community and focus on the wellness of future artists and future Hornets,” says Theatre and Dance Chair Melinda Wilson Ramey. “It is also a tremendous honor for Sacramento State students to engage with Ben Vereen, a phenomenal Broadway legend who continues to perform across the arts and gives back to the next generation.”
The evening presentation will be emceed by Rob Stewart of KVIE’s Rob on the Road and Amy Henry, host of Sacramento Film Works. Celebrity judges for the essay competition are Sterling Anderson, screenwriter; Sac State Professor Julian Dixon, Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera; Dena Martinez, actress and casting director; Pepper Von, choreographer; Rachel Songer, actress and singer; Jim Finnerty, producer for KVIE; and Richard Lewis, president and CEO, California Musical Theatre.
Advance tickets for the awards showcase are $18 general, $10 for students. At-the-door prices are $20 general, $12 for students. A $40 advance ticket, or $45 at the door, includes a VIP reception with Vereen following the evening performance. Tickets are available at the University Ticket Office, (916) 278-4323 or csus.edu/hornettickets.
The free 10 a.m. Musical Theatre Master Class is open to the public. For advance tickets, call (916) 278-3569 or email Theatre.Dance@csus.edu.
Photo courtesy of Isak Tiner