A grant from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation is about to turn some UNC School of the Arts students into TV stars.
The Raleigh-based charitable foundation's $500,000 grant will fund the broadcast of several School of the Arts projects on UNC-TV. The arts school, in Winston-Salem, will receive $100,000 a year for five years.
The first program selected for broadcast is one of the school's most impressive: a recent production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "Oklahoma!" that is distinctive for its faithfulness to the original 1943 production of the musical. That all-school production, which played in Winston-Salem this spring, was directed by Broadway star and School of the Arts alumnus Terrence Mann. The school's chancellor, John Mauceri, was the musical director.
A UNC-TV spokesman says the "Oklahoma!" production will air this fall.
The deal not only delivers locally produced art to the homes of North Carolinians who may not have easy access to it, but it could change the lives of students studying at the arts school.
Rebecca Moyes, a rising junior from Houston who played Laurey in "Oklahoma!" called news of the UNC-TV collaboration "overwhelming."
"It's something you hope for but never think it will happen," she said. "It's so difficult as a young actor to make it in this industry, and you can't pay for this kind of exposure. It's more than I ever dreamed of, to have a whole show broadcast on public television."
Max King of Cary, a rising senior at the school, was the second assistant director for the taping of "Oklahoma!" He thinks the School of the Arts has the best design and production school in the nation, so he's happy it will get more exposure through the collaboration.
King is working with three other School of the Arts students on a documentary about the Winston-Salem Dash, the city's minor league baseball team.
Second Fletcher grant
This isn't the first Fletcher Foundation grant to the School of the Arts. In 2000, it committed $10 million to establish an opera institute at the school. Since it was established, the Fletcher Opera Institute has trained and graduated more than two dozen opera singers who have embarked on successful careers.
Could that mean local opera on UNC-TV?
That's possible, said Barbara Goodmon, president and executive director of the Fletcher Foundation, who is also a trustee at the school.
"We haven't gotten there yet," Goodmon said of an opera broadcast. "But we very well may. The school will determine what they want to do."
Goodmon is excited not only for the exposure and experiences that the students will get from the partnership, but also for the chance North Carolina viewers will have to see exactly what the School of the Arts does.
"So many people don't realize what an unbelievable treasure the school is and what unbelievable talent is there," she said. "I'm amazed every time I go there for a meeting or performance. Just amazed at this tiny school with all this talent and all those ideas. The energy of that - it's very, very invigorating."
Recent School of the Arts graduate Leo Hurley was a senior at the school when he worked on "Oklahoma!" as assistant to Chancellor Mauceri.
"I'm so glad they'll keep doing these kinds of things," he said. "It's an opportunity for students to work with professionals on professional productions. It's an amazing experience."
The students who worked on "Oklahoma!" haven't seen the finished product yet, but Moyes, the actress, said they occasional got sneak peeks during the filming.
"We could run out to the truck and see snippets," she said. "It was incredibly beautiful."
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