Tag Archives: Arts

One School Musical Preview: “Seussical the Musical”

By Elizabeth Birkner

For the last five years, with the exception of the 2020-21 school year, Oak Hall students have performed in the One School Musical. Next month, around 100 third graders through seniors are performing Seussical the Musical, a musical based off Dr. Seuss’s literary creations. Theater teacher Brooke Molitor and music teacher Erin Cushing work together to decide which musical will be performed. “Every January, Ms. Molitor and I start with a huge list of musicals and start narrowing them down,” Cushing said. When deciding which musical to produce, the two teachers take into consideration how large the cast should be, what type of technical equipment they would need, and what instruments need to be used for the orchestra pit, among other things. 

Unlike previous One School Musical’s like Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, Seussical is a play that strays away from the usual set design of musicals with its bright colors and cartoony theme, much like the drawings in a Dr. Seuss book. The musical includes famous Dr. Seuss characters like Horton, the Cat in the Hat, Gertrude, Yertle the Turtle, and the Whos of Who-ville.

Students participating in Seussical say this play is an amazing experience that brings the school together as one and inspires them to share and showcase their love for the performing arts. “There is a big social aspect with everyone being in a group of people and it can be fun to talk with the cast [with parts similar to yours],” said eighth grader, Soie Haberman. She also elaborated on how working with different grades is one of her favorite parts of participating in the musical. “[The musical] gives students of all ages and abilities the opportunity to be leaders or learn from others,” Cushing noted.

Seussical performances will be held Oct. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m., and Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. All performances are in the Edith D. Cofrin Theater on Oak Hall’s campus. Reserved seating is $10 per ticket through Oct. 10 and can be purchased by clicking here! After Oct. 10, general admission tickets will be available at the door for $5 via credit card only (no cash).

Olympic Gold Medalist Joins OHS Faculty

By Emily Malloy

Each school year brings new teachers to the Oak Hall campus and community. Becky Lancer, one of the Upper School’s newest additions, joins Oak Hall as an art and ceramics teacher. Growing up in San Jose, Calif. Lancer was exposed to synchronized swimming at an early age, which quickly became her passion. Her school, much like Oak Hall, supported her athletic pursuits. This allowed her to travel the world and compete in countries like Cuba, Russia, Argentina, and throughout Europe before competing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. Before competing in the Olympics, however, she competed in Russia’s Goodwill Games and her team won the silver medal. Even though second place is a great achievement, she took the loss as inspiration to perfect the routine and help her teammates prepare for the world’s largest stage. “When you are going for a goal, sometimes the failures along the way will just burn your fire so much hotter,” she said.

The 1996 USA synchronized swimming team

At the Olympics, the team achieved a perfect score in the five-minute free routine and a near-perfect score in the technical routine. Combined, the points led the way for Team USA to win the first ever Olympic team synchronized swimming gold medal. “It was amazing to be able to stand and sing the national anthem with a gold medal in our own country,” she said proudly. After retiring from competitive synchronized swimming, Lancer performed for five years with Cirque de Soleil’s water-based show “O”. In addition, the gold medalist choreographed the opening sequence in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. In 2004, Lancer was awarded the highest honor in the swimming and diving community; being voted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Cirque de Soleil, “O”

After her many adventurous years, Lancer started a new adventure with her husband and three sons, eventually moving to Gainesville, while still coaching synchronized swimming. After teaching in the public school system for seven years, the opening at Oak Hall became available. When she found out about the open position, she considered it “the golden opportunity”. What drew her in are the values that Oak Hall has to offer. “Students at Oak Hall and the parents have really high standards for their lives. They aren’t just checking the boxes or going to class because that’s what they are supposed to do. We have engaged students and engaged parents,” she said. Lancer has enjoyed her classes so far and getting to know her students and her advisory, while also pursuing her art background and spreading her knowledge. She “hopes to give inspiration and encouragement to students no matter what they are pursuing”.

US Art Teacher Creates Online Teaching System Using Out-of-the-Box Thinking

By Lucas Walters

This year at Oak Hall has seen many new hurdles for teachers to face, most of which stem from having a class of students that is split decidedly in half. In most all classes at Oak Hall this year, there is a group of the attendees who sit in the classroom, and there is a group who sit at home. This situation will of course present challenges for the instructors that have to navigate through it, especially in the case of art teachers. Robert Ponzio, Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Oak Hall explains how he designed the online system he uses in all his classes today, despite the lack of examples of what an online art class should be.

“I realized it wasn’t working, right, and the way I had always done things had always worked great for all these years but I figured this online thing isn’t gonna go away and you know I need to know more. So, I started looking around, I don’t know, online just for some way of figuring this out. I started looking at other online art classes and I realized there’s like nothing out there […] So I happened upon a link to a course at this university that’s specifically to get a credential to become sort of an online teacher, right. So, you take this – You know hundreds of hours of class […] It basically gave us all sorts of theory behind it, it gave us research behind it, and the main project of the course for me was to develop a course – an online course.”

After developing a model class setup to work off of, Ponzio saw first-hand the benefit of using new online technologies to organize his classes. Using familiar tools like Canvas, our school’s learning management system, as well as new ones like EdPuzzle, a video annotating system, Ponzio began to update each of his courses to the new standard.

“The whole idea is that the – Canvas is the course. Okay, everything is there, and whether you’re online or in person it’s beneficial to both because everyone is equalized […] Right so I’ve been just busting butt for, I’m not even kidding hundreds of hours to try to get these things up. Right so I focused on my new classes which was Photo, Advanced Photo, and the Engineering class, this semester. […] The year-long courses I have is Drawing and Painting. Right well I can only – Once those other three courses were done then I started focusing on that one first and then the last one was AP [Studio Art] […] At this point now I think we’re – I’m kind of more or less one hundred percent online-able with all the courses and then I gotta still develop the first part of the year of Drawing and Painting for next year, the first part of AP [Studio Art] for next year, you know.”

Being fully online-able, Ponzio explains the ideas behind the system, and how he intends for students to navigate it.

“Okay so when you’re in the Photo class this is the course and the idea would be is whether or not I’m around or you’re around, you should be able to know where we are and keep moving forward […] We’re up to this point now. This one, you see it’s not ready. I mean it’s ready but I’m not opening it yet because I don’t want people getting too far ahead, right. So I’m trying to keep things open to where if somebody’s ambitious, they get this one done, they can start on this one, but I don’t want them finishing and finishing and just finish the course real fast. I want everyone to sort of stay together.”

Ponzio further elaborates that within each of the sections of each class, he has had to change not only the organization of the content, but also the presentation.

“So again, how any one of these works – If I click on the first one, the history, right this is just setting the context […] and then here are all the tasks of this […] So what am I gonna do, show slides and have a webcam and you’re looking over my shoulder in the classroom to see a dimly lit screen if you’re an online student? It’s stupid, right? Plus, how do I give you a quiz, right? How do I know anybody is, you know not cheating or – It’s not really fair too […] So what I’ve had to do is then pre-record my slide lecture like I would normally give you. So, you know I do this kind of fun stuff with the music to make it as interesting as I can.”

Each of the videos are well produced, with music, cuts, transitions, narration, and premade slideshow presentations all wrapped together.

“But with this I’ve had to become a film editor, right. So, I’ll do a slide clip like this, I’ll say the things I want to say, make sure I do it right. Maybe I mess it up, but I’ll go back, do it again, and then I edit it all together and then what this does is allow you to add questions along the way, right. So you get to this point, the video stops, and it asks you a question. Right so this then becomes your quiz and the slideshow all rolled into one, and the nice thing I think about it is you could do it in your own time.”

Although Ponzio regards this transition to a new teaching style as challenging, frantic, and still in progress in some aspects, he acknowledges the benefits that the change has shown.

“So, I’ve been kind of, you know running and scrambling still but I feel a lot better about sort of getting it and what I see now is the benefit because the online kids and the in-person kids at least are working from the same place. Right and we have one kind of common sort of meeting place and seeing the projects in the same way, so that’s, you know – Of course still gotta work out the bugs, I’m missing little things here and there in Canvas. I’m always trying to – Like a new assignment today, I had one part of it unpublished, right? I’m like, ‘What the heck is going on? I gotta find that little check-off.’ So, it’s still you know, working out the bugs and the kinks, but I feel a lot better about it now that I’ve done this.”

Despite the ups and the downs, it is apparent that Ponzio is making headway in not only transitioning his own classes to cater to all students, but also helping to pioneer a blueprint for other instructors to replicate and add to. It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and over the past year at Oak Hall we’ve had a lot of both necessities, along with a lot invention to meet it. For the Talon, I’m Lucas Walters.

Senior Spotlight: Anya AitSahlia

Oak Hall’s Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) allows students to expand their creativity in their given study (art, music, or theater). In an effort to make this year special for Oak Hall’s senior ACP students, we created A-Z questions for them to answer. We hope you enjoy!

By Lucas Walters

A – Advice you’d give your freshman-self? Trust yourself.
B – Best ACP moment? Probably any of the rehearsals for school musicals because of how beautifully chaotic they are.
C – Career goals? To be happy and to get really invested in what I’m doing. But I don’t know what I want to do yet.
D – Favorite dessert? Freshly baked cookies.
E – Most entertaining rehearsal? Well, this wasn’t really a rehearsal but in theory one day there were a bunch of wasps and Akhila and Asher were chasing them down with the alcohol spray bottles and that was hilarious.
F – Future plans for your craft? I definitely want to keep experimenting with different styles and work on composing music myself, but wherever I feel like going, I’ll go with my music.
G – Goals for your senior year? I really want to try to make myself uncomfortable with the music I play. Again, with the idea of trying new things and experimenting with different styles of music.
H – Hoping to attend (which college)? Anywhere but here. But, I’m not sure where I’ll end up. I just hope to get out of Gainesville.
I – Interesting thing about you away from your music/theater ability? I am a secret cheese connoisseur.
J – Favorite joke? Anything that’s corny. One of my favorites is, ‘What did the pirate say on his 80th birthday? Aye matey!’
K – Keys to maintaining homework? Write everything down and make sure you read it all, so you do it all.
L – Least favorite music/musical/art style? I don’t know. I like all music.
M – Music you listen to? Right now, I’m listening to lots of Billie Eilish and her brother Phineas, but again, I’m open to anything.
N – Netflix or Hulu? Netflix.
O – Outside hobbies (other than your art)? I love biking and also doing calligraphy.
P – Preparations for a big performance/concert? I definitely need caffeine and I usually like to watch a little bit of a TV show or something to de-stress before the performance.
Q – Question you would ask your future self? Did you figure out what you want to do with your life?
R – Most relaxing part of your day? I think singing with my sister on the drive home from school.
S – What would your senior superlative be? I’m not sure. I like to laugh and smile, so maybe best smile or something like that.
T – Favorite TV show? Right now, I’m re-watching Stranger Things so I’ll say that’s my favorite for now.
U – Most underrated pet? Guinea pig.
V – Favorite vacation spot? Definitely Iceland.
W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? Mostly being able to really dive into my passions in this community where we have a great support network of peers and teachers.
X – Any X-rays? No. Knock on wood though.
Y – Your impact to the younger musicians/artists/thespians? I really just hope to show them that it’s all about balance and balancing your dedication, effort, and really having fun so that you make the most out of your life as a musician.
Z – Favorite zoo animal? Otters. They’re super cute.

Annual International Festival to Showcase Nationalities, Heritage

By Grace Bernstein

Celebrating diversity in culture and ethnicity is the main goal of Oak Hall’s International Festival, with students spending hours making exhibits or volunteering time to help Oak Hall faculty and staff create a melting pot of nationalities, all for the enjoyment of the community. The festival, on Feb. 28 from 3:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., takes place on the front soccer fields and has numerous booths from countries spanning the world.  

This will be the International Festival’s fourth year at Oak Hall, but the idea sprouted from the Lower School 10 years ago. Oak Hall Upper School Spanish teacher, Libby Karow, has spearheaded the festival since its inception, but the Upper School’s International Club is the group of students responsible for the operations of the festival. These students come together in smaller groups to plan and design booths that show their own heritage. In addition, residents of the Gainesville community participate as well, showcasing the diversity in the town. This year’s International Festival welcomes “several businesses, outreach organizations, cultural organizations and student associations from the University of Florida,” Karow said.  

ECLC students perform at last year’s International Festival

Lower School students are performing at the festival, ranging from Irish folkdances to Russian songs. Each booth is meant to be educational, with some having food samplings and activities.

The students behind the scenes of the International Festival:
Allen Tong and Elle Storoe – President and Vice President of the International Club, and oversee the festival.
Grace Bernstein –Education Chair – adds activities which will not only teach the students about the history and geography of the participating countries but will engage them with cutting edge AR technology (QR codes).
Justin Chen – helps exhibitors create inviting displays and activities.  
Lauren Cohen – handles all of our public relations, media, and outside advertising. 
Mia Currie and Jacob The Losen – organizes all of the food providers for the event, the seating, the lighting, and decorations. This year we will have Soup to Nuts, Falafel King, and Cilantro Tacos along with other culinary treats. 
Charlie DePlato – manages the logistics, maps the event, measures and marks the field, inventories all the equipment, manages the installation of everything and runs a crew of volunteers like a skilled Master Sergeant.  
Sophia Guico – handles the International Club booth which includes emergency equipment, communications, transportation, staffing the entire event, and keeping track of all those service hours.
Katelyn Kinsell (in addition to ACP students) – runs the arts and crafts area for younger children who will make calligraphy bookmarks, ethnic dolls, and paint their hair interesting colors.
Akhila Nataraj – organizes the stage, lighting, sound systems, DJ, and performances.