President Bill Clinton hosts an intimate evening that celebrates the transformative power of the arts in education and Thea Foundation’s continued support of this initiative.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Dero Sanford
Highlighting the importance of arts in education, the second annual event Into the Blue: An Evening with President Bill Clinton showcases Thea scholarship recipients and their diverse talents. The 42nd president of the United States and friend to Thea Foundation hosts the dinner to benefit the organization and reiterate the transformative power of the arts in any student’s academic and personal life. The evening is a celebration of this mission fulfillment work and a special opportunity for the scholarship recipients to perform in an intimate gathering for Thea Foundation patrons. Instilling the confidence to pursue dreams, as well as academic success, is a critical component of the foundation, says founder Paul Leopoulos.
“Students who apply for the scholarships are really stepping out to have their art form judged,” Paul says. “We’re not trying to create artists here, we’re about fostering their confidence.” The Thea Scholarship Program, established in 2002, has awarded more than $2 million to Arkansas students and doesn’t require the recipients to study arts in college.
Paul and his wife, Linda, started the foundation shortly after the untimely death of their daughter, Thea Kay, in 2001. It’s become their family’s life work and continues to provide students and teachers across Arkansas with resources and access to the arts – promoting learning through creative expression.
Into the Blue entertainment includes performances by Thea scholarship winners from across the country successfully pursuing careers on Broadway, in Hollywood and beyond. They are Belinda Allyn, a Batesville native; Jacob Watson of Wynne; Bonnie Frauenthal of Little Rock; Isaiah Bailey of Little Rock; Dylan DeLuca, a Bentonville native; and Tre’Vaughn Whitley of Little Rock, who is one of the most recent scholarship winners and was also recognized as best in show for his solo acting at the 2016 Arkansas Thespian Festival.
Tre’Vaughn, or “Tre” as he prefers to be called, is the first and only high school student to be invited to perform at the event, Paul notes. The plucky Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School student smiles often and sets no limitations for his dreams. In April, he was student director of Parkview’s Addams Family production. He says he enjoys live theatre but one day hopes to find fame on the big screen.
Tre realized his passion for performance in the fourth grade when he delivered announcements on the school’s news channel. “The students really liked me and said I was entertaining,” he recalls. In middle school, when a teacher asked him about his aspirations, he responded, “I want to be like someone on House or Law & Order or Will Smith. The teacher asked, ‘So you want to be an actor?’”
Tre says he’s still surprised he received a Thea scholarship and that he will be performing for Bill Clinton. “There were a lot of people who applied and who have so much talent,” he says. His two contrasting monologues – Benedict from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Kent from Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly – earned him the scholarship. “The scholarship will be a huge help with college and it has already helped boost my confidence as a performer,” he says.
Favorite Theater Genre: dramatic pieces – I feel like it’s the hardest to perform
Favorite Play: The Miser by Moliere
Favorite Movie: Grand Budapest Hotel
Favorite Thespian: Patrick Stewart
Favorite Actor: Will Smith