WTA groupWTA essay competitors (left to right) Joseph Gonsolis, Brian Thao, Dylan Achermann, Dylan Curry, Daniel Urena, Darius Wilson, Joseph Weldon, Brendan Orellana, Alanna Serrato, and Kate Brugger.

Ten teens from three local high schools will join Broadway legend Ben Vereen onstage at Sacramento State as part of his Wellness Through the Arts (WTA) effort that helps students combat the nationwide issues of bullying, obesity, low self-esteem, and diabetes (BOLD).

A Tony Award winner for his leading role in Pippin and Emmy nominee for his role of Chicken George in Roots, Vereen is coming to Sacramento on Saturday, April 30, to show how the arts can be used to give these young people a shot of confidence and empowerment through Sacramento’s new WTA chapter (www.wtasacramento.org).

Every day, high school students across the nation face these challenges to health and self-esteem. WTA, which also has chapters in San Diego and Tucson, Ariz., promotes healthier lifestyles to cope with the problems by focusing on students’ talents and interests in the arts.

The Sacramento young people have written essays or produced video essays to demonstrate how the arts helped them through a difficult situation. During a 7 p.m. gala gathering at Sac State’s University Theatre on April 30, each of the 10 students will give his or her presentation, and a panel of VIP judges will narrow the field to two winners, each of whom will receive cash awards.

“Wellness Through the Arts Sacramento is about encouraging students to seek methods of positive creative expression in times of challenge, both mental and physical, through artistic pursuits,” says WTA Sacramento Director Trudy Allyson Taliaferro.

Participating schools and students are:

  • C.K. McClatchy High School: Alanna Serrato and Dylan Curry.
  • Natomas Charter School: Brendan Orellana, Danniel Urena, Darius Wilson, Dylan Achermann, Joseph Weldon, and Kate Brugger.
  • Luther Burbank High School: Brian Thao and Joseph Gonsolis.

In addition to the essay awards, the gala at 7 p.m. April 30 includes Sac State student dance performances choreographed by Linda Goodrich, founder of Sacramento/Black Art of Dance; and Pepper Von, co-owner of Step I Dance and Fitness; plus a music offering by Natomas Charter School’s One Voice Ambassador and a special dance performance by the Luther Burbank High School Mini-Monsters.

Emcees are KVIE’s Rob Stewart and Sacramento Film Works’ Amy Henry. Celebrity judges for the essay competition are Sterling Anderson, screenwriter; Sac State Professor Julian Dixon, Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera; Dena Martinez, actress and casting director; Pepper Von, choreographer; Rachel Songer, actress and singer; Jim Finnerty, producer for KVIE; and Richard Lewis, president and CEO, California Musical Theatre.

Special guests include Sacramento Vice Mayor Rick Jennings and Martin Anaya from the Sacramento International Film Festival.

Advance tickets are $18 general, $10 for students. At-the-door prices are $20 general, $12 for students. A $40 advance ticket, or $45 at the door, includes a VIP reception with Vereen following the evening performance. Tickets are available at the University Ticket Office, (916) 278-4323 or www.csus.edu/hornettickets.

Vereen also will conduct a Musical Theatre Master Class at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 30, in the University Theatre. The event is free and open to the public, and Vereen will answer questions from the audience at its conclusion.

For more information, visit the WTA website (www.wtasacramento.org) or call (916) 399-3982. – Craig Koscho