Coronation Theme Is Inspired By Fairy Tales And Legends
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
A highlight of the 2011 Texas Rose Festival will be the coronation of Queen Morgan Elizabeth Rippy, to be held Friday at the R. Don Cowan Fine & Performing Arts Center on The University of Texas at Tyler campus.
There will be two performances: a matinee beginning at 3 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. The theme, "The Grand Illusion," draws upon fantasy narratives from centuries ago up to the present. Costume themes include ideas from ancient legends, fairy tales, opera, ballet and popular movies of today.
The production will take a page from Walt Disney's "Fantasia," including a collection of music, special effects and costumes that are works of art.
Coronation organizers promise a production that expands on the annual event's lavish, intricate stage design and grandeur.
"This year, it's kind of seamless," said Beth Whitney, coronation co-chairman. "We mix lyrics and storytelling and weave in music that goes with each girl's costume. We've never used special lighting or special effects before. We are using a new lighting system that uses computer-generated images, so it'll be a much more modern feel."
Ladies-in-waiting costumes will all be different this year. Previously, they've been in different color groups, but essentially the same, Ms. Whitney noted.
"They'll represent fairies, elves, water sprites and magical creatures," she said.
The costumes derive from the whimsical imagination of the legendary Winn Morton, costume and set designer for numerous international events and performing acts.
Morton, who lives on a farm south of Dallas, has worked previously with the Ringling Brothers circus, CBS Television and for Broadway shows.
The costumes total more than $1 million and reflect countless hours of work from a team of artists and costume designers. Cynthia Riter has authored a lyrical script that flows between music and prose throughout the production. Ms. Whitney and Margo Adams serve as co-chairmen for the coronation under the leadership of Tim Alexander, executive vice president of the coronation.
In its 78th year, the Rose Festival continues to offer the community a Tyler tradition.
"I really do think it's unique," Ms. Whitney said. "There aren't too many places in the United States that have festivals like this. Tyler is continuing that tradition, and it's just amazing it's gone on all these years. I feel like it sets us apart and makes us special."CREATING A FANTASY
From start to finish, it takes about one year to plan the coronation, which includes the help of numerous committees and volunteers. The set design takes about two months to build. It will be assembled in Tyler on Monday.
Morton's ideas begin with sketches, which Ms. Whitney calls works of art themselves.
"Winn really is the genius behind all of this," she said. "He is brilliant. You give him your basic overall idea for what you'd like your theme to be -- and in this case, we'd given about 100 ideas of different fairy tale costumes."
Then Morton takes their ideas and, in his mind, envisions what the costumes should look like, she said.
Morton describes a scene filled with fantasy trees in crystal and silver. Instead of leaves, there will be hundreds of stars.
Lavenders, blues, pinks, dark greens and dark browns along with a background of shimmering cellophane and computer-generated lighting will cast down on castles, forests, Milky Way scenes and butterflies.
"It's called Grand Illusion so the idea is to make it a fantasy," Morton said Thursday. "It's not a time or a place."
He added, "It's a fantasy. I get to use a lot of wonderful colors and we've had good budgets and we're not restricted. ...You've got to have fun with these things. If you're too serious, it all looks dull. And I love doing it."
Morton, who attended New York's Parsons School of Design in the 1950s, has worked in the industry for 50 years and with the Texas Rose Festival for 27.
His passion for design is "all about making people look good on stage." A lot of inspiration comes from trips to New York, bringing back new fabrics that come from the far East.
"You learn it working in the field," he said. "You don't learn it in the classroom. You learn history of architecture, history of customs and history of scenery. One of the most important things to do is to travel and see Broadway shows, and see operas and ballets. I go to New York two times a year. I call it getting my battery recharged."BEHIND THE SCENES
This year's event will feature the vocal talents of award winning performers Molly and Mark Johnson. Performing and directing credits include opera, musical theatre, concert and chamber performances in New York, at the White House and across much of the U.S. and Canada.
Johnson is director of worship and fine arts at First Christian of Tyler and Mrs. Johnson is associate professor of voice and director of opera and musical theatre at the University of Texas at Tyler. They are the parents of two musical daughters.
Vicho Vicencio and the Moondance Orchestra will provide music for the event. They have participated in the Texas Rose Festival for nearly 15 years. Their Big Band sound is popular throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond.
Holly Marsh will again lend her guidance as orchestra director/music coordinator.
Lynn Ramey, director of Dance-N-Drill, will provide the production direction. Lynn has been involved with the Texas Rose Festival for many years in choreography and more recently, stage direction.
A new addition to the production team this year is Jan Strimple, of Dallas. Ms. Strimple is a world famous runway model who now produces fashion shows and events throughout the country. She was recently involved in producing "Fashion's Night Out" held in Dallas at several venues, including a quarter-mile runway at the Dallas Galleria. Ms. Strimple will bring her production expertise to the coronation, providing an array of lighting and special effects.
Ann Lake and Peggy Smith are the royalty chairmen -- liaisons between the out- of-town duchesses, their parents, sponsors and the Texas Rose Festival. Debbie Roosth is the mothers' chairwoman, providing guidance to the ladies-in-waiting and their families. Peggy Brelsford, Susan Hightower and Jill DeShazo are the escort chairwomen, overseeing the escorts, their parents and sponsors. The attendant chairwomen providing direction to the youngest participants are Mary Ann Cozby and Jennifer Smith.
Ann Brookshire has given countless hours to ensure the program for the event is accurate as well as beautiful. Autry Design, headed by Jana Autry, provided the coronation logo and program.
The coronation relies on countless volunteer hours of the wardrobe committee, headed by Jennifer Deen and Angie Russell. Their committee will consist of Lyndy Frost, Sara Lundy, Kelly Michaels and Renna Hembree, wardrobe properties; Melissa Bennett, Stacy Martin, Resa Clarke, Amy Lively and Brenda Stratton, costume coordinators; Suzie Thames, Sheri Caton, Lynette Maynard, Shelley Calhoun, Lori Morrison, CiCi Shelton, Jaclyn Sherrell and Nancy Satterfield, accessories coordinators; Cassandra Bramlett, makeup and hairdresser coordinator; Leigh Ann Bugg, Donna Alfred, Bonnie Palmer and Sara Seeker, order of appearance; Laura Bennett, Dottie Bisagno, Kendall Barclay and Amy Cromer, chaperones; Karie Smith, Shawnte Shaver, Stacie Jordan, Michelle Williams, Shannon McDaniel and Kim Hackney, hospitality; Ally Rayzor and Michelle Dial, graphics; Jamie Landes, Jill Hickerson, Cynthia McAndrew and Susan Smith; doorkeepers; Andrea Riley, Melissa Barrett and Leigh Clyde, parade liaisons; Joan LeSauvage, George Ann Reed and Melinda Tefteller, transportation; Cissy Ewert, Kate Iglesias, Robin Schultz, Melanie Braughton and Susan Davis, Rose Garden set up.
Officials say the secret to the coronation's success stems from a dedicated group of women, fondly known as the GIBs, or Girls in Black. Susan Bracken, stage manager, and Carol Langston, assistant stage manager, head this group which volunteers their time and talents each year to ensure the production runs smoothly.
The group also includes Tracey Bedgood, Ann Fitzgerald, Jayme Fitzpatrick, Karen Hand, Deidre Hull and Jennifer Yoder.
Tickets may be purchased for the coronation at the Cowan Center Box Office by calling 903-566-7424.