The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday November 28th

Student-acted musical appeals to North Carolinians, current political climate

Presyce Baez (in the role of Flick) performs opposite Ainsley Seiger, who plays Violet.
Buy Photos Presyce Baez (in the role of Flick) performs opposite Ainsley Seiger, who plays Violet.

Last night, the Conservatory debuted “Violet,” the Broadway show they’ve been working on for five weeks.

The Conservatory is a summer training program for students interested in acting or technical theater work. At the Conservatory, students have the opportunity to work alongside professionals to grow their skill set.

The cast of students this summer is particularly star-studded, with Ainsley Seiger, best actress winner from the Triangle Rising Stars program and Andrew Bonomolo, a National Association of Teachers of Singing competition winner.

Laura Pates, assistant technical director of the program, said the students are treated as professionals, and as such, do professional level work.

“They learn so quickly and they’re all so talented,” she said. “To see that development over five weeks, it’s the most beautiful thing. It’s why we do what we do.”

Pates also said the program is beneficial to the professionals as well.

“There’s another generation of students wanting to do what we do, and they get to do that with us,” she said. “It makes it worth every minute and every hour of all the work we do.”

The show has local roots as well — Doris Betts, the author of the book “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” which “Violet” is based on, was a UNC-Chapel Hill professor.

Director Matthew Steffens said he thinks “Violet” will resonate with North Carolinians since it starts in North Carolina and many characters are North Carolinians themselves.

“It’s about Violet Carl, who is disfigured after getting hit by an axe blade. She’s going from Spruce Pine, North Carolina, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to see a TV televangelist,” he said. “She puts faith in this televangelist that he’ll be able to cure her. I think we all have things we put faith in.”

Seiger, who plays Violet, said this is her third year coming to the conservatory.

“Not only are they talented, but everyone is so kind, everyone is very supportive of each other,” she said. “Every year our directors and choreographers are so amazing. The people I get to interact with everyday are such a big part of why I keep coming back.”

Steffens said “Violet” has more relevance now than ever before, even though the story was written 50 years ago and the musical 15 years ago.

“We’re still dealing with issues of people being judged, of racism, of having something to believe in, and the desire to come together as a community and become better people and a better community,” he said.



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