Tribute soiree opens with big news: A new drama scholarship
If 26 theater students from Dublin flew across the Atlantic for the singular purpose of serenading you with Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes, what would you do?
If you were Jan McArt, you’d sing along, of course.
“I’m a little embarrassed by all of the attention,” McArt said, “but who can resist Rodgers and Hammerstein?”
On May 3 at the Wold Performing Arts Center—McArt’s home theater on the Lynn campus—fans, family and friends gathered for a “Grand Night for Singing,” A Tribute to Jan McArt, a musical revue of hit songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein shows like Carousel, Oklahoma!, The King and I and The Sound of Music. Organized by Lynn President Emeritus Donald Ross and his wife Helen, with support from dozens of McArt’s admirers, the evening honored McArt for her 14 years as director of theater arts development at Lynn.
“Jan is the most vivacious person you’ll ever meet. Everyone loves her,” Ross said. “She deserves to be honored now. It’s her turn.”
McArt has been friends with the Rosses for decades, first meeting at McArt’s Little Palm Theatre, where Boca Raton’s tots and teens (including daughter, Ellen, and son, Kevin Ross, now president of Lynn) received their first exposure to the arts.
“She is a very special human being,” Ross said. “And she has done so much for the culture of South Florida.”
So what’s the connection between Florida’s First Lady of Musical Theater and a stage full of singing Irish students? It is the new Jan McArt Scholarship—announced for the first time at the event—which offers full-tuition assistance for a drama student at Lynn to spend a year studying at the American College Dublin.
But the Irish connection goes even deeper. McArt helped develop the Dublin school’s theater program, the only one in Ireland that offers a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in fine arts, with a specialization in musical theater.
“Jan has been phenomenal, much more than a consultant,” Ross said. “She has been so generous with her time and talent, even teaching master classes when she’s visited the college in Ireland. It’s fitting to now offer Lynn students the chance to study in the program she helped develop.”
“Jan has been so generous with her time and talent, even teaching master classes when she’s visited the college in Ireland.
Lynn President Emeritus Donald Ross
Jessica Quigley, who graduated in May with a drama degree, spent 10 days in Ireland in 2015 to present a musical with the Lynn theater department. She said the students who receive the Jan McArt Scholarship will be transformed by Dublin.
“It was the best trip of my life,” she said. “I was doing what I loved surrounded by another culture. The drama kids over there were giving us insight into how they grew up in the theater and how they learned acting. They showed us around the city and taught us the local lingo.”
Quigley said she was moved by the culture and by the thrill of performing in a place so rich in theatrical history. The Irish campus is close to events like the Wexford Drama festival. It is even closer to buildings rooted in the Irish theater tradition: The childhood home of dramatist, writer and bon vivant Oscar Wilde, in fact, serves as the campus’ cultural center.
“Ireland has things to offer in terms of performance, study, atmosphere and history that you just can’t get anywhere else in the world,” McArt said. “It makes a wonderful education in the performing arts for our students.”
“A Grand Night for Singing,” including the whole trip for the Dublin performers, was paid for entirely by McArt’s friends and admirers. All proceeds from the evening benefit the Jan McArt Scholarship. Annie Green, Christine Lynn, Debbie Lindstrom and Patricia Toppel chaired the event, with Elaine Johnson Wold as honorary chair.