Rise is a moving, futuristic coming-of-age story about a group of high school students dreaming of being world-class entertainers. Under the direction of their new Diverse Physical Talents teacher, Mr. Sam Simon, each student hopes to achieve greatness and win one of two paid understudy roles in the Dream Empire, a well-known traveling circus. As the students improve upon their talents and performance presence, they struggle to keep love, friendship and rivalry balanced in their lives. Rise is a new theatrical experience that will electrify the mind and inspire audiences to overcome all obstacles and rise to the top. Local Central Florida performers Tiffany Lamwatt and Felix Betancourt play the lead roles of Max and Courtney, and 2007 World Gymnastics Champion Shayla Worley makes a special appearance as Julie.
Writer and Director Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons holds a standout career as a gymnast, from winning a junior national all-around title in 2002 at the age of 15 to becoming the first African-American gymnast to win the NCAA All-Around title in 2007, while a student at Oklahoma University. When asked to explain what the play is about, he says: “Rise is about the constant struggle of life and rising from life’s challenging circumstances. We all have stories of setbacks and unfulfilled goals, but every day we are rising back from these circumstances. Rising in life happens only once we have fallen. The beauty of life is that we do rise. We do have stories of people who accomplish amazing feats after tragedies, and Rise was inspired by someone who needed to rise from his own life’s setback.”