From Disney to Drama: Behind Mrs. Milsap’s Career Curtains
As her class watches the 1961 film adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Mrs. Rosemary Milsap teaches her students about the role and significance of woman in theatre. Being passionately involved in drama for the past 22 years of her life, she is ecstatic about informing her students in the arts.
A 12-year drama teacher at Cedar Shoals and founder of the Cedar Shoals dance class, Milsap was a performer at Disney Studios in the Fantasmic show. With her experience as a performer at Disney and as a teacher of a variety of subjects including social studies, math, and speech and debate, her heart has stuck to performing and teaching drama.
“I love watching a group of young folks come together with a common goal, and they care so passionately that they are willing to put in extra hours and put social things on hold in order to achieve that goal,” Milsap said.
“At a very young age, I was always very driven and drawn towards the arts,” she said. She carried this interest of fine arts throughout her early life, but it wasn’t until eighth grade that her passion sparked.
One of her most memorable plays in her eighth grade year was When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet.
“It was a cute one act play with all the women in Shakespeare’s plays where I played Juliet,” she said. “Something clicked in that particular performance, and I really identified with the character Juliet. I think I really found a love of learning in a different kind of way: through performance.”
At the University of Georgia, Milsap extended her interest of fine arts even further by becoming involved in the dance and theatre programs, also working in the costume shop for a year. Surprisingly, theatre became only her minor, with her undergraduate degree in art history.
“All my degrees intersect. Studying art is infused in everything that I do and in what I teach,” said Milsap.
After college, Milsap moved to Los Angeles, California with her new husband: former Cedar Shoals art teacher, Steve Milsap. Along with working at a folk art gallery in Pasadena, Milsap took on performing for Disney Studios. She was part of the original cast of Fantasmic, an extravagant outdoor show that combines numerous Disney shows and characters. Now performed in Orlando, Fantasmic runs three times a night, with about 3,000 audience members per showing.
Milsap was involved in three parts of the show including the pirate from Peter Pan and one of Snow White’s seven dwarves.
“In the petal of the plants in The Jungle Book, I was strapped into a contraption that was twice as tall as I am, and I was harnessed into it. We would do dance routines and form flowers and things like that,” said Milsap.
Milsap distinctly remembers her experiences there and the close friendships she made with the other performers.
“During the shows or between shows we had about an hour to hang out. I can just remember playing cards, sitting around talking and making up games.” Still, after a year of the same exact routine and show every night, Milsap began to feel like it was repetitive.
“By the end, I couldn’t stand it,” she said. “All I did was work and we [her and her husband] just barely got by, which is why we later moved.”
Milsap said the experience of being in a setting like Disney and her other drama experiences in high school have all affected her career now.
“In high school, I took an engineering shop class, which is one of the most valuable learning experiences because I now build sets. Because of Disney, I’ve also been able to determine what students would be good for which parts,” she said.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t have any money so I would get my older sister’s used clothing, and I learned how to sew so I could remake them into my own which is actually one of the best tricks you use in costuming: pulling something and re-engineering an outfit to be another costume for another person,” she said.
Milsap’s current students see how her professional experience lends valuable assets for their learning.
“I think because she has this first-hand experience [from Disney], she can pass it on to us,” said Elaina Banks, senior.
“She’s one of the reasons I do drama,” said senior Thomas Eberhart. “She is a determined, caring, and thoughtful person, and I know if I have any trouble I can go to her about it.”
Milsap believes her biggest accomplishment is working with Cedar students and give them an experience of working hard on a product with others.
“We all work so hard on our product, and when we finish our product, we feel like we’ve just been through so much. I think having that experience over and over through 22 years with younger students has been my greatest accomplishments,” she said.
“I’m offering the stage, and I’m saying, ‘come to the stage and see what happens, see what you can discover about yourself.’ There is a sense of magic that comes along with theatre. When you sense those moments where you’re just like, ‘Oh my gosh! It came together. I’m in my costume, I’ve worked on these lines, and here’s the live audience. They’re all clapping for me!’ It can feel very magical,” said Milsap.
Banks believes Milsap has allowed her to expand her interest in drama and has given her an experience to remember.
“I have really opened up and do any role she gives me. Because of this drama experience, it has made me want to continue doing drama in college,” said Banks. “She always says, ‘school work comes before theatre’. I really appreciate how she puts our education before our drama activities.”
All great shows must come to an end, and when the time comes to leave, Milsap wants to leave a legacy behind at Cedar and an important imprint on the community.
“There is a really raw talent here at Cedar. We have such a diverse community. Cedar in some ways is like a city; you’ve got all types of folks who go here, and there is a lot of opportunity,” she said. “I love discovering what each individual brings.”
“When it gets time to leave, I would like to leave with a sense that I’ve established some things that make Cedar a more rich place because of my time and experience here,” she said.