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Valley Life | drama

Teen Dreams of Stardom

November 03, 2000|SUZIE ST. JOHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Picture 1,600 high school students performing in a theater competition, all with the common goal of becoming the next Kevin Spacey or Sally Field.

That was the scene last Saturday as students from 68 high schools converged on Valley College to compete in the annual Drama Teachers Assn. of Southern California Fall Festival.

The festival has been a highlight for high school drama students since 1942. Some participants have even become stars, including Spacey and Field, Val Kilmer, Mare Winningham, Nicolas Cage and Cuba Gooding Jr.

"The kids who participate in the fall festival are just amazing," said Amanda Swann, association president and drama coach at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. "There is such good interaction going, and the energy level is really unbelievable."

Students start preparing for the competition when the school year starts by searching for the right material to showcase their individual and group talents. Each school submits one entry in each of eight categories, except for the audition monologue, which accepts two entries. Technical skills cover set and lighting design; and makeup, costume and graphic design.

In the performance competitions, costumes and props are not allowed, forcing the students to be creative to make their skits believable. A school such as Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles, which is an all-girls school, has to be even more creative, as the troupe competes with an all-female ensemble.

"It presents a lot of challenges for us," said Notre Dame coach Carla Wynn, who performed in the festivals as a teenager. "It encourages the girls to learn different acting styles, and we study a variety of plays."

Last year, Wynn's group captured second-place honors in the overall sweepstakes competition. This year, they went home with an honorable mention in the overall; first place in makeup, costume and graphics; and second place in the large group musical for two to 10 people.

Swann said most of the judges are working professionals recommended by high school drama teachers. After all the awards are handed out, the first-place winners in each category perform for the entire audience.

This marked Anne Ventimiglia's second year competing in the festivals, but she said knowing what to expect did not make it any less stressful.

"It's so intense when you are in the classrooms performing," said Anne, the senior class president at Birmingham High. "There is so much energy in the room, but it's really nerve-racking to wait to find out if you advance or not. No matter how you do, though, it's such a feeling of accomplishment. It's a real confidence booster."

Classmate Jonathan Smith said the competition prepares students for careers in acting and directing.

"The best part about this festival is the anticipation of being onstage and waiting to see how you did," said Jonathan, 17, of Tarzana. "You just have to remember to get a good night's sleep the night before and to realize it's a never-ending process--you have to be constantly polishing your act."

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FESTIVAL WINNERS

The top three places in each category

Technical--Sets and Lights: 1) Paso Robles High School, Paso Robles; 2) Palisades Charter, Pacific Palisades; 3) Cleveland High School, Reseda.

Technical--Makeup, Costumes, Graphics: 1) Notre Dame Academy, Los Angles; 2) El Dorado High School, Placentia; 3) La Crescenta High School, La Crescenta.

Auditions: 1) Sunny Hills High School, Fullerton; 2) Upland High School, Upland; 3) Marymount High School, Los Angeles.

Large Group--Serious: 1) Palisades Charter; 2) Upland; 3) El Camino Real High School, Woodland Hills.

Large Group--Comedy: 1) La Crescenta; 2) Louisville High School, Woodland Hills; 3) El Dorado.

Musical--Large: 1) Palisades Charter; 2) Notre Dame Academy; 3) Santa Susana, Simi Valley.

All-Female: 1) Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Rolling Hills Estates; 2) Upland; 3) Van Nuys High School, Van Nuys.

Contemporary Playwrights: 1) South Pasadena High School, South Pasadena; 2) El Dorado; 3) Chatsworth High School.

Oscar Winning Original Screenplays: 1) John Muir High School, Pasadena; 2) Upland; 3) Glen A. Wilson High School, Hacienda Heights.

Sweepstakes (overall school ranking): 1) Palisades Charter; 2) Upland; 3) Palos Verdes Peninsula; 4) El Camino Real; 5) El Dorado.

Honorable Mention: Birmingham High School, Van Nuys; Notre Dame Academy; Chaparral High School; Temecula; Santa Susana; South Pasadena; Charter Oak; Covina; and Paso Robles.

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