From her first steps at Brandon Youth Theater to her accomplished strides at the Don Thompson Theatre at Blake High School, Emily Di Monaco has had a passion for the stage. Her big production now is District 9 Cares, a showcase of local high school thespian troupe talent, all for the cause of supporting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
For Di Monaco, it's been a dream in the making since her sophomore year at Blake, when she was, as she put it, "sitting in [the Carol] Morsani Hall [at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts] and the director announced to the theater full of thespians that Florida State Thespians had not reached its goal for raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS."
"Morsani Hall is huge and we had two opening ceremonies and the seats were full, and I thought, 'How is it possible this amount of people didn't raise enough money for such a great cause?' " Di Monaco said.
Flash forward two years and Di Monaco is doing something about it, having proposed that Florida State Thespians District 9, which basically encompasses Hillsborough County schools, stage a showcase of thespian troupe talent in one grand fundraiser show.
District 9 Cares (also known as D9 Cares!) "is a show of the best pieces in the entire district perfomed in one night," Di Monaco said. "Each school is asked to perform their best pieces, representative of each school's troupe of thespians."
Participating schools are Alonso, Blake, Brandon, Chamberlain, Hillsborough, King, Plant, Plant City, Riverview, Steinbrenner and Tampa Bay Tech high schools and Carrollwood Day School.
The show is set to be staged Friday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m., at the Don Thompson Theatre at Blake High School in Tampa, at 1701 North Blvd. The cost is $10 general admission and $5 for thespians. Donations will be accepted. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door, if still available.
"Every cent we make at this event goes to Broadway Cares," Di Monaco said. "We'll be selling tickets, concessions and red ribbons to show your support in the fight against against AIDS." Also on sale will be $1 Act-o-Grams, which can be purchased for one or more performers for delivery backstage during intermission.
Also, Di Monaco said, "there's a surprise at the end, put on by the district thespians, for which you might be wanting to bring some spare change."
According to Di Monaco, her idea for a grand production, brining together the works of Tampa Bay area high school thespian troupes, was put forth by Seth Travaglino, the musical theater teacher at Blake, before a District 9 thespians meeting.
"I ran up to the him the day of the meeting and said, 'Don't forget to ask the sponsors about it and call me after the meeting and let me know how it goes," she said. "I remember waiting for the call. I was driving, the phone was vibrating, and I pulled over to answer it. He [Travaglino] said he brought it up and the sponsors unanimously thought it was a good idea."
And then the work began in earnest.
"Absolutely, no way I could do this on my own," Di Monaco said. Aiding in the effort, she added, were Travaglino, teacher and troupe sponsor, and District 9 Blake Troupe No. 5742 student officers Erin Odziemski, Danielle Goyco, Mahaillie Griffith, Sky Ray, Sam Schneider Behen, Mikey Reichert, Monti Ransome and Tyler Ransome.
Also, friends Cassidy Brown and Haley Allen helped to make the red ribbons for sale and Abby May dontated her time as lighting designer.
"And there were other troupe sponsors who said let us know if we can help," Di Monaco added. "Not only are we raising money and awareness in the fight againt AIDS, but it's also bringing our district together as a community and we all support each other."