Both seniors and associate Head of School L'Tanya Evans will depart the academy at the end of the year.
When student actors took the stage March 29 at The Out-of-Door Academy, it wasn’t just the last opening night for departing seniors in their drama department.
It was the last performance for director and Associate Head of School for Academics L’Tanya Evans.
“I really try not to think about it,” Evans said at the final dress rehearsal March 27.
Evans will depart ODA at the end of the year and will become the Head of School at Academy Prep Center of Tampa.
“I keep telling everybody I’m going to be just up the street,” she said.
During the rehearsal, students performed “Songs for a New World,” a musical that connects songs that are tied together with a theme of a moment of decision.
Evans has worked at the school for 17 years and has directed and produced 21 shows during that time.
The latest work she directed is atypical. "Songs for a New World" has scenes that include the deck of a Spanish sailing trip where a captain prays for the safety of his passengers, and one where a soldier who has died in battle sings as his body is flown home to his mother and he crosses to the afterlife.
Evans said the show is a unique experience for both the cast and the audience.
“I chose this show in particular because we have a number of seniors with strong, vocal talent,” she said.
Over the course of the rehearsals, Evans has frequently been moved to tears.
“It gets me every time," she said of the emotion of Songs for a New World. "I have yet to not cry."
Students like senior Kinsey Newhams, who have been part of the musical theatre program since first grade, are keenly aware of the significance that this is the last performance for both them and their director.
“She’s been like a mom to me,” Newhams said. “I’m glad she was here.”
Another senior, Mary Fulton, said she and other students call Evans “Mama E.”
Fulton said she was happy that Evans was leaving with them, as she said acting for another year without Evans as her director would feel bizarre.
Both Newhams and Fulton said they’ve gleaned plenty of life-lessons, like the value of speaking up for themselves.
“We’ve built such a tight-knit community that we’re able to express ourselves,” Newhams said. “You wouldn’t find that anywhere else.”
Evans said the students take control of the musical after the last rehearsal, and then it’s up to them.
“I relinquish everything to the spirit, because it’s out of my hands,” she said.
But at the last dress rehearsal, she still had a job to do. So she walked around, checking mic packs, gathering the students to the stage for vocal warm-ups, and making sure their last rehearsal went as planned.
And when it was finally time for Evans to get the performance started, she called out: “Alright, let’s bring it!”