The idea for the Red and Gold Meet was the brainstorm of one ambitious, enthusiastic parent 20 years ago.
Three years later, the idea became a reality and, in turn, a tradition at Rosary High School.
Every year, the 600 students of Rosary, a Catholic girls' school in Fullerton, present the Red and Gold Meet, which is a competition between two teams, the red and the gold--Rosary's school colors--in which each team writes and performs its own hourlong play based on the same theme.
"My own high school held a performance every year," said parent Charlotte Ovando, who first proposed the idea for the competition and was invited back this year to be one of five judges. "I thought Rosary needed spirit at the time and something like this would give every girl an opportunity to do something in high school before she went on to college."
From 1965, the year of Rosary's founding, until 1968, its students held an annual talent show.
In 1968, Ovando proposed dividing the student body into two teams and having them compete in everything from dance, song and drama to basketball drills.
The idea was shelved by the school's student body cabinet, but popped up later, and, by 1971, had developed into the first Red and Gold Meet.
In that first year, the competition was a sequence of performances. Red team members would dance, then Gold team members danced. Red choral group sang, then Gold. Four hours later they were done, and each member of the audience voted for a winner. It took over an hour to count the votes.
"Oh, it took forever that first year," Ovando said. "When I proposed it, I gave them the idea of using a theme and two plays, but they did their own thing and they didn't know what they were doing."
But the tradition had begun.
Today, there are four offstage categories of competition: props, publicity, backdrops and art models. The five on-stage categories are drama, choral, dance, drill and spirit.
One year, the plays featured sewer rats dancing to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; another year, singing Tootsie Rolls.
This year, the Gold team's play was a murder-mystery movie-within-a-movie, while the Red team presented a worldwide search for the fountain of youth.
Back in mid-November, the student council held several meetings to come up with the Meet's theme--"It's a Mystery to Me"--and to select captains and co-captains. The council spent hours scrutinizing class lists, looking for people of special talent, responsibility, dedication, enthusiasm, good leadership qualities and the ability to keep a secret.
"It's really hard," student body president Maria Metcalf said of the selection process. "You're giving a lot of people a chance to form leadership skills, but you can't give everyone the chance."
The selections were complete by mid-November and 56 girls (28 on each team) were informed of their responsibilities. All of this is done in complete secrecy.
When the students were let out for Christmas vacation, the captains' work had just begun. The theme was given to both teams, and they had a little more than a month to write and choreograph their plays.
On the average, the captains--Gold captain Jennifer Kennedy, senior, and co-captain Jennifer Bastian, junior, and Red captain Lynette Salerno, senior, and co-captain Nicole Naffaa, junior--spent about six hours every other day during vacation working on it.
On Jan. 25, everyone was made aware of the meet's theme and the names of the captains during the school-wide Red and Gold kickoff assembly.
A few days later, students found out which team they were on and which category they were in. Then, dance and drill captains began teaching movements, the choral group began perfecting notes and drama students began practicing lines.
Props and backdrop members spent tedious hours putting on finishing touches. Captains spent countless hours trying to coordinate lighting, music and sound effects at nearby Servite High, Rosary's "brother" school, where the productions have been held for eight years.
Six girls made up the White team, which was responsible for the shows' technical aspects. With little or no technical training, they worked behind the scenes with the assistance of two teachers and a couple of counselors.
During the last few days of preparation, the spirit of Red and Gold comes through the most.
Kelly de Guzman, a senior on the White team, said, "The night they moved the props into the theater, everyone helped each other. Kate Metzen (Gold choral captain) spent an hour and a half gluing rope on a trash can for one of Red's props, and Red (team members) did a lot of the same things for Gold."
Friday night's performance was actually the dress rehearsal, and, inevitably, things went wrong.
Since Rosary is an all-girls' school, the male roles were played by females, and there was the inevitable hair flopping out from under a hat or coming loose from a ponytail.
Problems with the lighting, sound and props were corrected for the Saturday night performance, when the judges would be there.
"I was really impressed with the performance on Saturday. I don't see how (they) got everything ready because on Friday it seemed like it wouldn't turn out," said Arthur Ryder, a first-year chemistry and algebra teacher at Rosary. "But Saturday night everything went so smoothly I couldn't believe it."
But the Red and Gold Meet is not about winning and losing.
After she found out that the Red team had won Saturday, Kelly Snell, a senior member of the Gold team said, "I've always been afraid of the stage so even though my team didn't win, it was a personal victory. I made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun."