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Benefit raises money for performing arts scholarships
The legacy created when Anita Miller died 13 years ago continues to give back to student thespians and stagehands enrolled in Eastland Performing Arts at Reynoldsburg High School.
Miller was a public servant, wife, mother and volunteer who was active on the local school board, Eastland-Fairfield school board and as Truro Township clerk. She died unexpectedly in 1998, and her former spouse, Jerry Miller, honored her memory by creating a scholarship fund for graduates of the theater curriculum.
“Anita and some others helped bring the Eastland program to Reynoldsburg around 1995,” said Miller. “The program was just getting started when she died. She loved the program and the kids so much. It was part of her creative spirit.
“At her funeral I started the seed for the scholarship and made the first donation of $5,000. Then other people stepped up and there were wonderful donations from the community.”
The first year, a single $1,000 scholarship was awarded to a performing arts graduate pursuing higher education. In the years since, the number of scholarships has varied. According to Miller, due to the public’s generosity and donations from an annual benefit performance, the fund was placed in perpetuity and awards are now funded through interest earned by the account.
To be considered for a scholarship, candidates must write an essay explaining why they deserve to be an award winner. Applications are reviewed by a committee.
Past winners include Liz Shivener, who recently toured nationally as Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast;” Rebecca Wolfe, who is attending Kent State University; Kristin Yarger, presently enrolled at Otterbein University; Capital University student Heather Rudisill; and Alex Funk, enrolled at the University of Akron.
“I think Anita would be delighted with the scholarship,” Miller said. “I created it on the spur of a moment and then it got legs. Anita was a very humble woman and couldn’t believe the situation she was placed in as far as community service. It was her love and I know she’s looking down and giving us a wink.”
In addition to her work on behalf of the performing arts, Miller said Anita also secured a donation from the school district’s Touchdown Club to help build the field house at the high school. She was recognized at both the auditorium and sports complex with plaques in her honor and memory.
“My mom was very passionate about the performing arts,” said Anita’s daughter, Shirlee Dowden. “It’s hard to believe she’s been gone for 13 years. She was also so passionate about the schools and the children and she wanted to give the kids every chance to succeed.”
This year, the Anita C. Miller Benefit will be held at 8 p.m. April 14 in the Reynoldsburg High School Theater, 6699 Livingston Ave. The benefit is produced by the performing arts program in conjunction with the Anita C. Miller Scholarship Fund Committee and includes pre-performance refreshments at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.
The spring show is “WORKING,” an ensemble musical based on Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Studs Terkel’s interview with dozens of Americans in his book “Working, People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.”
Songwriter Stephen Schwartz, composer of the musicals “Godspell” and “Wicked,” and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member James Taylor, worked with other musicians to turn “WORKING” into a Broadway musical, which opened in 1978.
There are more than 45 onstage performers reliving the real life roles of American workers through song and dance. Featured in the show are several guest artists including Greg Shivener, a teacher at Waggoner Road Middle School and Gloria Carpenter, Performing Arts vocal music instructor.
Regular performances of “WORKING” are at 8 p.m. April 15 and 16, with a matinee at 3 p.m. April 17. Tickets are $9 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for students. For more information, call (614) 501-4071.
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