For artist Courtney Miller Bellairs, being on the set of Sherwood High School’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival #42 offers both the comforts of home and new challenges.
Bellairs is no stranger to the popular musical production, now in its 42nd year. A graduate of Sherwood’s class of 1987, she was pianist and backup singer in Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival #16, and a lead singer, backup singer and dancer in #17.
“It was my best high school memory,” said Bellairs, who came to Sherwood as a junior. “I was over the moon. It was so much fun.”
Rock’n’Roll Revival is a musical production featuring live performances of songs from the 1960s to the 1990s and beyond, designed to appeal to all ages. The tradition began in 1971 after members of the school’s yearbook class were inspired after seeing a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Bellairs went on to graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor of science degree in architecture in 1991, then from Yale University with a master of architecture degree in 1996.
Her career took her to London, where she also taught architecture at a university, while simultaneously launching her career as a successful artist. Her success continued when she returned to the United States in 2006.
Last year, she attended Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival with her son Bobby, now 9. During intermission, she approached her former teacher, Bill Evans, one of the show’s directors. She gave him her business card and told him that she would be interesting in helping.
Evans took her up on her offer. She started working on the design for this year’s production just after Thanksgiving.
She took responsibility for the entire graphics package, which included the logo, T-shirt, program image and set design.
After throwing a few ideas around, she and Evans agreed on the “Rock Star” theme.
“It means looking at all the people of different shapes, sizes, colors and eras — they all equal rock star,” she said. “We have a couple girls performing their original music, so maybe we have some future rock stars. And to the parents and friends, the cast members are all rock stars.”
The center of the set features risers amidst a painted bead curtain, to keep it simple and safe for the 265 cast members. The sides of the stage are flanked with layered panels that feature silhouettes, representing the likenesses of stars such as Elvis and The Beatles denoted in the set list.
Bellairs has drawn the entire set and is working with construction manager Keith Carpenter and a group of students who are helping her paint.
“The kids have been very positive and recognize that we are doing the best we can with two-dimensional surface painting,” Bellairs said.
Megan Brady, a senior, said this year’s set is colorful and imaginative.
“Courtney really brought it out this year,” she said.
Janet Mansaray, also a senior, agreed.
“Working with Courtney has been a wonderful experience,” she said. “She gave us leadership and artistic direction, which we didn’t have last year. She had a great vision, and that makes it easier for us to work hard because we all believe in it. Plus, working with Courtney is a lot of fun.”
Besides the fun, the task has been challenging. Bellairs said she has been “pushed to the limits” with her painting. The scale is much larger than she is used to, and she does not normally paint people.
“Seeing my art in a whole new way has made me want to do more of this,” she said. “Architecture is a long, painful process, so seeing the results turn into something real in such a quick period of time is very satisfying.”
She also is glad to be contributing to the community and making connections. She is working with the Sandy Spring Museum, hoping to offer art classes and exhibit her work there later this year.
“It’s been a great opportunity, and Mr. Evans has been completely supportive,” she said.
Evans said it has been a great collaboration, working with Bellairs and the other directors.
He said knowing Bellairs as a student and knowing her professional background, it was natural for her to do the set design.
“We have so many former students and parents of former students come back to help that it is very comfortable,” he said. “It’s always a whole community effort.”