Actress and dancer Elizabeth Parkinson has served as co-director for the Musical Theater Lab at the Vineyard Arts Project (VAP) for the past six years. This Friday, for the first time, the Tony award nominee and former ballerina performs for the public on the Vineyard at a fundraising dinner and show.
Ms. Parkinson is best known for originating the role of Brenda in the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel jukebox musical “Movin’ Out,” for which she was nominated for both a Tony and a Drama Desk award and won the Astaire award for Best Female Dancer. She was also a principal member of the Broadway musical review “Fosse” and has appeared in four movies. Before pursuing musical theater, Ms. Parkinson enjoyed a successful career in ballet — performing as a principal with the Joffrey Ballet and Twyla Tharp Dance, among other companies.
Ms. Parkinson has now transitioned from performing to teaching, but was persuaded by VAP founder and director Ashley Melone to appear as part of a faculty and student showcase at the upcoming fundraising event. “I’ve always been such a huge fan of Elizabeth’s,” Ms. Melone said. “I saw her in ‘Movin’ Out’ and ‘Fosse.’ She’s just so compelling to watch. She doesn’t really perform anymore, but she’s still so stunning.”
Ms. Parkinson now runs a school in Connecticut with her husband, Scott Wise, a Tony-winning song and dance man and veteran of 13 Broadway shows.
The fundraiser includes a post performance dinner with staff and students, catered by Jan Buhrman. The approximately one-hour long show features students and other Musical Theater Lab faculty. Ms. Parkinson will perform “Cool Hand Luke” from “Fosse” and other numbers.
The Musical Theater Lab was established in 2007 by Ms. Parkinson and Mr. Wise. Throughout the year the two Broadway stars conduct auditions around the country to select 26 students ages 14 to 18 to participate in the summer program. The best and the brightest young talent study dance, singing, and acting on the Vineyard for two weeks each summer. The staff includes a dozen theater, dance, vocal, and directing professionals.
Previously the spacious facility, complete with four state-of-the-art dance studios, served as a ballet school. Many of the students who passed through that program are now with renowned dance companies.
VAP also sponsors a number of theater and dance residencies in the summer. In July, artists from New York’s Public Theater and ARS Nova were in residency. Later this month the Dance Theater of Harlem will spend two weeks at the facility, for the second consecutive year.
At the end of each residency, the artists present readings or excerpts of new work created on site. The main studio, converted into a small theater for these evenings, offers a great opportunity to see work from prestigious theater and dance companies and emerging playwrights in an intimate space.
The upcoming fundraiser featuring Ms. Parkinson will help support the residencies. Artists pay nothing for their time here and are provided with a stipend.
Ms. Melone is grateful to Ms. Parkinson for helping with her fundraising efforts. “I’m absolutely thrilled to have her back for the sixth year and excited to see her dance,” she said. “To see a woman of her caliber perform in such an intimate setting up close is really exceptional.”
Vineyard Arts Project Fundraiser, Friday, August 9, 6 pm, Vineyard Arts Project, 215 Upper Main Street, Edgartown. $300. Visit vineyardartsproject.org for more information.