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Port Orchard Independent

Dec 17 2008

...Northwest veteran author Donna Anders’ never-performed Christmas musical. Here’s a new take on Christmas — an original holiday production. With all the whimsy and pageantry of “the Nutcracker,” the heart-warming humanity of “A Christmas Carol” and the catchiness of actual Christmas carols, veteran Northwest author Donna Anders provides the script as a Kitsap County Dance Studio brings to life “The Princess of the Dolls,” an original Christmas musical, in Port Orchard, Dec. 19. It’s the story of a little girl and her grandmother finding the true meaning of Christmas through the spectacle of the little girl, Sonja’s, dreams and the story of a grandmother and granddaughter of long ago. “The contemporary grandmother tells the story as it unfolds on stage,” Anders said. “The granny of long ago is very ill and they are very poor and the little girl of long ago is wishing for Santa Claus to help them.” Potential spoiler alert: Anders added the three-act play concludes with a happy ending, where the true significance of Christmas is revealed. (I think I may have seen this one before.) “But it’s also all the magic in the wonderland of a child’s dream of what Christmas really means,” she goes on, “and the magical Kingdom of the North Pole and Santa Claus.” Later that night, Sonja wakes up to a doll that’s come to life in her room. Naturally, they have a conversation — most likely something to do with the true meaning of Christmas — which leads to more and more dolls coming to life, and thus, Sonja becoming the Princess of the Dolls. “Putting it together was just a blast, getting to see what everybody has done,” said The Dance School’s artistic director. She said The Musci and Dance schools 15 faculty got together to read Anders’ story, get inspired and brainstorm to come up with “every doll you could possibly imagine” — from Barbie Dolls to G.I. Joe action figures to robots and Cabbage Patch Kids.“Then we divided up the dolls among all of us instructors and started putting together dance pieces and vocal numbers,” and then voila — the Holidays on Stage.“With this play, for me, it’s not about any commercial gain or motivation,” Anders noted. “It’s lighting up the faces of little kids, and maybe giving somebody a different view on the true meaning of Christmas.” And, in a way, it’s about coming full circle, back to where she started as an author. “If this isn’t the first story I wrote, it’s close to it,” she said. Anders has built her life as an author, now living in Seattle. She’s penned everything from short stories, one-act plays, poems and kids programs in her early years, to historical sagas and psychological suspense thrillers more recently. She pulled “Princess of the Dolls” out of her drawer, 20 years later, at the request of her daughter — Kitsap County voice teacher, Tina Abeel. “She always thought that I should write that story into a children’s musical,” Anders said. “But I didn’t have the music background. ... Tina does.”

Kitsap Sun

Port Orchard teen hopes to sing, dance, model, act her way to stardom at Hollywood show

  • By Rodika Tollefson
  • Kitsap Sun
  • Posted October 24, 2009 at 10:35 am
  • Photos by Rodika Tollefson

Fourteen-year-old Keonna Evans has a rare collection of talents: academics, sports, singing, dancing and acting. Voice teacher Tina Abeel helps Keonna Evans warm up during a recent voice session. Keonna, right, practices “Ain’t No Other Man” with her girl band at and with the direction of Tina Abeel. Fourteen-year-old Keonna Evans has a rare collection of talents: academics, sports, singing, dancing and acting. Help Keonna Reach for the Stars. A dinner and dance on Nov. 14 will help raise funds for Keonna Evans and her mom, Donna Williams, to travel to Hollywood in January for the iPOP show. Dinner (pizza) is at 6 p.m. and the dance starts at 7 p.m. The event will be at the Givens Community Center in Port Orchard. For information, call Williams at (360) 689-2973.

PORT ORCHARD — This coming January, hundreds of kids, teens and young adults from United States and beyond will converge on Hollywood to try to woo talent scouts with their dancing or perhaps singing skills. Port Orchard teen Keonna Evans hopes to be among those performers walking away with contracts from entertainment or modeling agencies. A ninth-grader at Marcus Whitman Middle School, Keonna will be traveling to Hollywood for the International Presentation of Performers (iPOP) convention, a talent show of sorts where representatives from about 200 agencies will be on the lookout for the next star. The event has four separate categories — dancing, acting, modeling and singing — and Keonna plans to show off in all four. “Keonna has a natural singing ability, a one-in-a-million kind of voice,” says Tina Abeel, voice teacher. She’s a girl with internal beauty, and that comes through in her music.”At age 14, Keonna is already quite accomplished: An A student and class president, she’s a star athlete who plays three sports and has been performing at local events. She’s a bit divided between her love of sports, especially basketball, and her love of singing — but is ready to take sides. “I’ve always wanted to be a singer but I didn’t take it seriously,” she says. “… I love sports but every time I sing, it makes me feel good. I love basketball but singing overpowers that. ”Her mother, Donna Williams, says she was encouraged by many people to explore her daughter’s musical talent — not an easy task, considering she has three other children, all involved in sports. And Keonna, too, has been pleading with her to help take her singing to the next level. So several months ago, they decided to start with voice lessons with Tina Abeel. “I needed to know if she had something special. I needed to have someone else, who’s trained, to tell me,” Williams says. That someone else was Abeel, who’s been singing for 30 years and has instructed many aspiring singers. “Keonna is probably one of the most soulful people I’ve met in a very long time,” she says. “She is what she appears to be, there is no pretense. She sings from her heart. ”Keonna has presented an interesting challenge. “When you have a natural talent like that, you can’t put her in a box,” Abeel says. “Everything that’s unique has to stay in there, but you want to infuse technique without changing the voice." Talent agents with the John Roberts Powers in Seattle agreed with the assessment of Keonna’s multiple talents when she answered an open call recently for a talent competition. She was selected by the agency with another small group of area kids reaching for the stars to enter into the Hollywood iPOP show. Getting in was the easy part. Between now and then, Keonna needs to polish a monologue, practice two songs and a one-minute dance routine. Oh, and walk in 5-inch heels. In addition to her lessons at The Gallery, where she’s also a member of a girl band, she travels to Seattle every Friday to prepare for the big show. “It’s really intense because with school and sports, going to Seattle and trying to keep up my grades, it gets overwhelming at times,” she says. “I know it will pay off when I’m in LA in January. ”To help with trip and show expenses, Keonna and her family have been doing fundraisers. Already, she has received several sponsorships that will cover the majority of the trip but her goal is to bring in another $1,500 to defray the costs. She’s been visiting local businesses to share her story and leave behind sponsorship letters, and has garnered several fans that way. Williams says this trip could mean a turning point for the entire family. If Keonna is successful and receives offers, the family would likely move to LA to be closer to the opportunities, at least for a year to see what pans out. After having lived in Port Orchard all this time, it would be a major change. “We’re ready,” Williams says. Move to star central or not, Keonna says the iPOP is going to be a major event in her life. “I want to make the most of the experience,” she says. ''''''

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