‘Hairspray’ cast to perform at Arts for Autism _lowres

Advocate staff photo by STACY GILL -- Members of Zachary High's cast of 'Hairspray', rehearsing a scene in January, will reprise their roles March 2 at Arts for Autism, a fundraising showcase at the Manship Theatre. Cast members, from left, are Tony Collins as Seaweed; Kyla Bates as Little Inez, Jamarcus Smith as Pinky; Breann Burson as Penny Pingleton; Emma Dry as Tracy Turnblad; Eric Scherrer as Wilbur Turnblad; Cece Kelly as Edna Turnblad; and Alana Scott as Motormouth Mabel.

The Manship Theatre Student Advisory Board has invited members of Zachary High School’s cast of “Hairspray” to perform at the Arts for Autism fundraising variety show benefiting research for autism spectrum disorder and the local nonprofit, Unlocking Autism.

Unlocking Autism was founded in 1999 by two Baton Rouge mothers of children with autism and a grandmother from Atlanta.

The organization serves the autism community through grass-roots connections designed to help reduce the learning curve for parents once a child is diagnosed with autism and is dedicated to assisting newly single parents of children with autism re-enter the workforce and access services to get on their feet again, according to the website unlockingautism.org.

Part of Arts for Autism proceeds will go toward development of the Gateway Transition Center, started by Central couple Steve and Sharon Whitlow whose son Sam was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder while in kindergarten.

The Manship Student Advisory Board, which formed in 2010, has about 45 students and volunteers from 18 area high schools that come together in an annual project to raise funds for a local charity or organization through an artistic collaboration.

The board offers opportunities for personal development and growth by using the talents of its members to enrich the lives around them through exposure to the arts, according to the Manship Theatre.

“We are basically a group of high school artists interested in social change, and we’ve decided to pool our talents this year to raise money for autism research,” said sophomore Curtis Hooper, who represents Zachary High on the board. “We have a unique opportunity to use what we love, the arts, to create something we want to see advanced in our communities.”

“Hairspray” director Trish Dry, a gifted and talented theater teacher, said last year’s fundraiser sold out and raised more than $2,000 for a local charity.

Past beneficiaries include the David Paul Learning Center, Baton Rouge Food Bank and Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge.

Manship Theatre Executive Director Reneé Chatelain said each year the board works to produce shows from planning to logo design to marketing and production.

Some high schools will be contributing musical talents to Arts for Autism, such as ZHS, while others have contributed artwork for the logo as well as other design aspects.

The “Hairspray” cast of talented theater and choir students is sending about 20 members to perform the songs “It Takes Two,” “Baltimore Crabs,” “Run and Tell That,” “I Know Where I’ve Been,” “Cooties,” “Welcome to the ’60s,” “Timeless” and “Stop the Beat.”

The musical was a hit with the Zachary community. It ran for six nights in January.

“Curtis was my most versatile cast member. He played three roles — Spritzer, the principal and the scene-stealing, hysterical ‘was he a man?’ or ‘was he a woman?’ gym teacher,” Dry said. “Curtis was also instrumental in many of the technical aspects of the show such as designing the program and working as overall production assistant. He’s a sophomore but very mature beyond his years.”

Dry said Hooper is a great representation of ZHS on the Student Advisory Board, which is open to all area high schools and meets monthly.

“Besides performing in ‘Hairspray,’ I was also involved in many management aspects of the production,” Hooper said. “All of the digital graphics that the community has seen this year has been my work including the online ticketing system, Ticketleap, but I could not have done these things alone and am thankful to Emma McDermott and Mr. Jeremy Reynolds for his professional insight.” Reynolds is the visual and performing arts coordinator for Zachary productions.

Arts for Autism begins at 6 p.m. March 2. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7.50 for students.

For information or to purchase tickets, visit manshiptheatre.org.