For many family and friends of Anderson University, the President’s Gala is the most anticipated event of the year. The beloved show offers a unique blend of dance ensembles, orchestral music and vocal and instrumental performances.
On April 27, the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University will produce the 12th annual President’s Gala, featuring a talented group of performing artists. The President’s Gala is the culmination of student and faculty dedication to their respective crafts over the course of a school year. Students from various SCSA majors come together to create an unforgettable and highly esteemed one-night show.
Dr. David Larson, dean of the South Carolina School of the Arts, said that the President’s Gala is a joyous year-end celebration. It gives the SCSA an opportunity to showcase the great talent of its students while providing performers with terrific experience, he said.
Senior musical theatre majors Alexis Harder and Bethany Mansfield have participated in the President’s Gala every year during their time at AU. This year, Harder is hosting the show alongside Cameron Johnson and is dancing in musical theatre ensembles. Mansfield is a feature vocal soloist and will participate in all the dance ensembles.
Both Harder and Mansfield said the community dynamic within the School of the Arts has been a highlight of their experience with the President’s Gala.
“The SCSA is about not only showcasing the Lord in every single way, but it is also about a community of different majors and different types of people,” Mansfield said. “I think the Gala is a great way to showcase that to donors and students. It shows that we can all work together and create something bigger than imagined or anticipated.
“The Gala is the biggest show of the year, and the reason is not only because it has a great backing, but also because it is the one show of the year where everyone in the SCSA collaboratively works together,” Mansfield said.
Faculty members will also take the stage alongside students during the President’s Gala. President Dr. Evans Whitaker will make a special appearance during the show.
“I think it’s really cool to see the faculty and students together at the President’s Gala,” Harder said. “Something that really drew my heart to Anderson was the faculty. We have a faculty who wants to see you do well. This is a tough business. You can go to a million auditions and only get one callback. I have always known I want to do musical theatre, but now more than ever, completing my four years here and feeling so diverse in all different areas of musical theatre and the performing arts, I know that I made the right decision. That wouldn’t be possible without them.”
“The President’s Gala is not like a typical musical where you rehearse for months before; each number is by a different major within the fine arts,” Harder said. “We work on it throughout the semester, but we don’t come together as a full cast until the week of the production. It’s a really fast-paced rehearsal process, but it’s cool to watch how everyone’s hard work comes together.”
Harder and Mansfield have seen the President’s Gala grow significantly since their freshman year while becoming immersed in the SCSA community along the way.
Mansfield said she looks forward to seeing how this year’s President’s Gala will continue to reach a new level after last year’s success.
“At the SCSA, we take performance quality to another level. You are going to see so many different aspects of the theatre brought together to create something magical,” Harder said.
“I like to say that entertainment is when the performer exceeds expectations. We aim for that,” Dr. Larson said.
This year’s President’s Gala will include many collaborative, fun numbers that are sure to engage the audience, including “Boogie Shoes,” a jazz number performed in 70’s-themed costumes. A dance ensemble will also be dancing to a live soloist’s performance of “This Is Me,” from the hit musical, “The Greatest Showman.”
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into the Gala, but there’s also a lot of love that goes into it,” Harder said. “I think one of my favorite things about performing is making people smile. This is definitely a show you can smile all the way through. It’s heartwarming.”