February 01, 2011
|Photo by Justin Braun|
As the audience shuffled into the dimly lit black box of the Fred Stone Theatre, a confident and cool Jonathan Keebler (Class of 2011) stood off to the side with arms folded, taking in the scene. If Keebler was nervous, it was completely masked by composure. The Sophomores, an original musical co-written and directed by Keebler and presented by the Rollins Department of Theatre & Dance in cooperation with Rollins Players, had its world premier January 26 to 30, 2011.
The Sophomores has taken two and a half years to come to fruition. Having started off as a simple “arts exploration” over the summer between Keebler and long-time friend Jamie Lee Jacobs, this original musical kept changing shape until the cast got their scripts. The inspiration for the story dates back to Keebler’s experiences in high school.
“I was annoyed that the stories I wanted to hear about and see weren’t accessible, so I decided to write my own,” Keebler said. “I wanted to write a gay love story that was neither mocking nor tragic.”
The two-hour and forty-three-minute production, featuring a young cast comprised of many newcomers to the Fred Stone stage, follows the story of high school sophomores Sam and Peter as they begin to come to terms with their sexuality. Amanada Leakey (Class of 2011) as Emily achieved a stand-out performance, belting out melodies and conjuring convincing emotion.
This was Keebler’s first theatrical experience off stage. Keebler has played numerous featured roles, most recently in the Annie Russell Theater productions Biloxi Blues and Grease. Keebler considers his first directorial endeavor to be a success, in spite of how daunting the task was.
“If I had any idea that writing and producing The Sophomores would become so overwhelming, Jamie and I would have stopped after finishing the first draft,” confessed Keebler. “I was a nervous wreck trying not to worry about what the audience would think. Still, given the resources and time we had, I feel it has been a great success. If people get even a little enjoyment out of the production, I will have done my job.”
Keebler said that he and Jacobs will continue to work together on original musicals in the future, but have not undertaken a new concept as of yet. He’ll be back on stage in the upcoming Annie Russell Theater production of It’s All Greek to Me, opening April 15.
For more information on the Rollins Department of Theatre and Dance, please visit: http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/index.html