06 December 2009
Children Go Where I Send Thee
This week's song on Take This Tune took me off on a major tangent because as a child I was often "SENT" on a round of relatives. One of the alternate living locations was frequently Fresno. On the surface Fresno may look like a rather dusty backwater in the center of California, but due to a series of events it is a culinary multicultural banquet and an active training ground for dance, music, and theater for young people who then go off to pursue their talents in larger cities but with a solid resume. Fresno may have lacked a feeling of security and home, but it more than made up for it in a multiplicity of experiences of people and art.
Audra McDonald is the one everyone points to simply because she was remarkable from the beginning. Born in Berlin, Germany and raised in Fresno, California, she began to study acting at a young age. McDonald graduated from the Roosevelt School of the Arts program within Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno. She got her start in acting with Dan Pessano and Good Company Players, beginning in their Junior Company. That was good training, as it prepared her for Julliard graduating in 1993. Within five years of entering on her professional career, she became a three-time Tony Award winner by the age of 28.
I returned to Fresno as an adult and had the privilege of being on the board of The Lively Arts Foundation which sponsored many of the amateur and professional dance productions in town. In addition, I frequently went to the Good Company Player productions for dinner theater and amateur and semi professional productions or to the Saroyan Theater for road show companies from Broadway, name music entertainers and the symphony. One night about two decades ago, I had the pleasure of standing in line with Ms. McDonald's aunt and mother just casually chatting about this young woman who had brought them so much pride in her accomplishments.
In addition to her several Broadway roles, she has entered on an extensive concert schedule. So just to bring this back full circle to the music of the season, here she is singing "Go Tell It On The Mountain".