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May 16, 2017 > Student artists get valuable start at theatre fest

Student artists get valuable start at theatre fest

By Julie Grabowski

All the world may be a stage, but for high school students, Ohlone College is the place to take your act. Each year the colleges Theatre and Dance Department hosts the High School Theatre Festival where young performers experience competition, observe their peers, and develop their craft.

Started in 1995, the festival celebrated its 23rd year March 17 and 18, 2017 with over 900 competitors from 29 schools around the bay. The Tri-City area was represented by Irvington, James Logan, Mission San Jose, Moreau Catholic, Mt. Eden, and Washington, while other students travelled from as far as Grass Valleys Nevada Union High School, Hollisters San Benito High School, and Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA).

The festival offers performance opportunities in 36 categories in fields such as classical and contemporary performance, musical, improvisation, set design, costume design, makeup, tech, and dance. Over 100 awards are available, with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in each category. Three top prizes are also given to the schools with the most points scored. The Festival Sweepstakes for highest cumulative score was awarded to LACHSA, the Judges Sweepstakes for highest average points per entry went to Moreau, and the Tech Sweepstakes for the highest total score for tech and design was won by Oakland School of the Arts. San Benito High took home the Spirit Award.

We continue the festival as a service to the community and to help foster the next generation of theatre artists in California, says Ohlone instructor and Festival Producer Michael Navarra. The event is an impressive undertaking with numerous people needed to make it all happen. About 6 core staff and faculty members, 80 Ohlone students, and 100 high school monitors are at work during the festival. Judging is provided by approximately 100 artists in the theatre community from all over the Bay Area who provide feedback and encouragement.

While the offerings have stayed the same for most of the festivals history, attendance has never remained static. The number of participants has grown steadily through the years and this was our largest festival yet, says Navarra.Ê As the festival grows in number of participants and schools, the competition gets stronger. I think the festival offers students the opportunity to showcase their talents, receive feedback for their work, and be inspired by their peers.

Home to a magnet program for the performing arts, it isnÕt surprising that Irvington High School has been participating since the festival began. Theatre arts teacher and Irvington Conservatory Theater Director Matthew Ballin has been accompanying students for 16 years, the first 14 as a teacher at Washington High and the last two years with Irvington. ÒThe reason we do it is its such a motivator for high school kids,Ó says Ballin. ÒIt improves their performance over all, forces them to challenge themselves.Ó

Ballin requires students to audition for the festival, with the screening process happening in December. Preparation takes place both inside and outside of the classroom; BallinÕs advance drama class students working on pieces in class at the beginning of the second semester.

He says students are always excited about the festival and get really competitive. They see the other work, which is high quality, and realize what they have to do, to step it up. ÒItÕs a really positive energy all weekend,Ó says Ballin, calling it a Òsummer camp-type energy on steroids.Ó

Thirty-seven students competed this year and took home two awards: 1st place in Contemporary Humorous Ensemble for ÒSomewhere, NowhereÓ featuring seniors Sydney Bush and Simran Sen, and 2nd place in Maxi Musical (11 performers or more) for ÒThe Wizard of OzÓ whose cast included Navy Agbanlog, Kiyomi Blackmun, Maya Diaz, Anika Goel, Jessica Haskin, Drew Hope, Sofia Karpelevitch, Riya Kataria, Kayla Keesee, Niko Le, Mehaa Mekala, Jordan Murayama, Leo Mutarelli, Leah-Anna Neilson, Sam Noori, Kaleea Parungao, Leif Pearson, Anne-Marie Salgado, Katie Traynor, and Mitchell Wexler.

A broader, bigger, and more intense event than the Lenaea High School Theatre Festival Irvington also attends each year in Folsom, Ballin claims OhloneÕs festival is very good with something for everybody. He says the experience provides so much for students, and heÕs really grateful to Ohlone. The collegeÕs close proximity means itÕs much easier to get there, more kids can go, and itÕs fairly inexpensive. Another great element is the social interaction. Theatre geeks are separated from the rest of the school, Ballin explains, and when they arrive at the festival and see all the theatre kids from around the Bay Area, watching them interact is amazing. Ò...they can see that the world of theatre is beyond their school. The more the students see what we teach out in the world, itÕs just a real positive thing,Ó he says.

Sixty-one students from HaywardÕs Moreau Catholic competed in this yearÕs festival, taking home seven awards in dance categories. In addition to winning the Judges Sweepstakes, Moreau captured 2nd place World Dance Solo, Josephine Au for ÒRadianceÓ; 1st place World Dance Ensemble for ÒMaguindanaoÓ featuring Hayley Alcayde, Noah Alcayde, Corina Cruz, Janina Engo, Mark Evangelista, Sophia Lee, Tory Okialda, Jon-Richard Zanipatin, Cameron Matabuena, Gabe Penaroyo, and Miyoko Suratos; 1st place Theatre Dance Solo, Isabel Angeles for ÒBlank CanvasÓ; and 2nd place Theatre Dance Solo, Jessica Ruth for ÒMultiplicity.Ó Ruth also won the Student Choreographer award. In Theatre Dance Ensemble Moreau took the top two awards, 1st place for "Beauty Is...," choreographed by Jessica Ruth and featuring dancers Isabel Angeles, Haley Alcayde, Maryann Evangelista, Sophia Lee, Tory Okialda, and Miyoko Suratos; and 2nd place for "Domino Effect" with choreographers/dancers Orianna Castillo, Ryshel Constantino, Dana Jauco, Julia Patel, and Vivian Trinh.

OhloneÕs High School Theatre Festival is a valuable aid in ushering young artists forward. The dedicated support and encouragement of the theatre community is surely key to propelling todayÕs students onto the theatre stages and film screens of the future.

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