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New York playwright's musical premiers at Pallotti [Old Town Laurel]

Cast and crew of “Blink” at St. Vincent Pallotti High in Laurel. The original one-act musical penned by New York playwright James Rich debuted at the school with three sold-out performances the weekend of April 7.
Cast and crew of “Blink” at St. Vincent Pallotti High in Laurel. The original one-act musical penned by New York playwright James Rich debuted at the school with three sold-out performances the weekend of April 7. (Photo courtesy of Pallotti High)

New York's Broadway, London's West End and Laurel's St. Vincent Pallotti High School.

What do these three locations have in common? All have hosted the world premiere of a stage play.

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Pallotti students debuted "BLINK," an original one-act musical penned by New York playwright James Rich, with three sold-out performances the weekend of April 7.

"It is highly, highly unusual for that to happen," director Kelli Young, a Pallotti faculty member, said of a high school premiere for a professional script.

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Moreover, the roughly 30 students who served in the "BLINK" cast and crew pulled it off in just five months — a tight timeline for any production company. The theater-in-the-round musical is a "Cinderfella" tale that follows the fortunes of teenager Jamal Prince, a ward of the state who inherits a successful shoe store and whose life is changed overnight.

Young met Rich last summer when some Pallotti students performed in a production of Rich's play, "There Was a Boy" at Morgan State University. The playwright was impressed by the high school's arts academy and worked with Young and arts academy director Saunders Allen to bring "BLINK" to Pallotti, even reworking some of the script and music to make it more appropriate for a high school cast and crew. Rich visited the campus several times during production to collaborate with students in developing their characters.

Rich "had a great deal of confidence in the students," Allen said. "This developed as a possibility for us because he had met the students. The kids were actually the ones who paved the way for this to happen."

The production of "BLINK" is a feather in the cap for Pallotti's 40-student strong arts academy, now finishing its second year. That program provides intensive study and private instruction for students in visual arts, theater, instrumental music and vocal music to prepare them to study the arts at the collegiate level. About two-thirds of the play's cast and crew are arts academy members.

Among them is junior Bryan Schmidt, who lives in Old Town and starred as "BLINK"'s lead character, Jamal.

"It was fun, scary, exciting," Schmidt said of premiering a show. "The fun part was trying to figure out what characteristics I wanted Jamal to have. The scary part was trying to learn all the lines and performing it in front of people."

Allen said he hopes to take the musical on tour to Pallotti's feeder schools and would like to share it at other venues as well.

Other students in the "BLINK" cast and crew include: Ainae Nielsen, Amanda Huff, Andrew Marshall-Cook, Annie Smee, Arianna Richardson, Bella Lourenco, Carlos Barahona, Christopher Anderson, Collin Atkins, Elijah Oshinnaiye, Francis Picado, Gary Snowden, India Harsley, Joey Scalise, Jordan Essex, Jordan King, Katelyn Klukowsky, Kennedy Essex, Leila Nolen, Maggie Bunge, Nnamdi Ojibe, Phonche Swinson, Sarah Johnson, Sarah Mocko, Shelby Lewis, Skylar Johnson, Sophia Radich, Tony McKinney, Xiaoyu Yu (Rein) and Nia Rukus.

Bravo to the cast and crew of "BLINK"!

St. Mary of the Mills Church, 114 St. Mary's Place, will host a Cinco de Mayo-themed designer handbag bingo night on Saturday, April 29 in the Breen Room. Doors open for a Mexican dinner at 5:30 p.m. and games begin at 6:30 p.m. Game packs for the adults-only evening are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. A LulaRoe consultant will be there as well. Proceeds from bingo night benefit St. Mary of the Mills School. Reservations can be made at 301-725-3080 or events@stmaryofthemills.org.

The women of St. Philip's Church, at the corner of Main and Sixth streets, will host a Ladies Spring Fashion Show on Saturday, May 6 in Wyatt Hall. The Dress Barn in Laurel Shopping Center will provide the outfits for the show and have them available for sale. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. and the show starts at 2 p.m. Admission is $15. Light refreshments will be served and proceeds will benefit women's outreach projects at the church. Call the church office at 301-776-5151 for more information.

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