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March 26, 2008 > MSJHS drama wins gold at national competition

MSJHS drama wins gold at national competition

By Praveena Raman
Photos By Anne Crosbie and Spencer Williams

Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) drama students won several awards including "the Superior Rank Trophy" and the "Judges Choice Award" for their group production "In Unity We Stand" at the National Performing Arts Festival. The festival sponsored by Travel Adventures and hosted by New York University (NYU) took place from February 22 until February 25. Twenty-eight high schools from all over the county participated in this invitational event.

The National Performing Arts Festival requires the high school student cast to perform a 20-minute selection for critique by a panel of theater experts. The piece "In Unity We Stand" written and directed by student Diane Phan dealt with the HIV/AIDS theme and included monologues, scenes, dance and music pieces. "My experience directing this show was stressful at first because I had never directed a piece that wasn't directly from a play, and I basically had to put a whole script together from scratch. Also, there were 17 people in this performance, so it was a big change, since I previously had only directed a 3 person scene. In the end I had a lot of fun working with all my classmates," says Diane. The cast members were allowed to choose the piece they wanted to perform so that they could relate to it.

Most of the high schools participating in the festival performed scenes from a show, play or musical. MSJHS students surprised the judges with the variety piece on a single theme eliciting comments of being creative and courageous from them. Spencer Williams, who teaches theatre at Mission, mentions, "Our students did an incredible job! We received a Superior Rating (the highest we could get) and won the Judges Choice Award, an honor that they do not usually give out!" Besides the group award some of the students won individual recognition and awards namely, Beatrice Crosbie won the Outstanding Female Soloist (vocal) and Outstanding Female Actor awards; Lance Smith won the Outstanding Male Soloist (vocal) award and Emily DeStigter also won the Outstanding Female Actor award. After the competition the students had the opportunity to work with the judges in numerous master classes and workshops.

Apart from the festival the students also saw four Broadway shows, The Little Mermaid, Xanadu, Young Frankenstein, and Spring Awakening and toured the Juilliard and Lincoln Center, where they were able to see professionals working in the industry. They also played tourist and visited the Top of the Rockefeller, the Metropolitan Museum, the Lincoln Center, Soho, Radio City Music Hall, and Times Square. Diane summarizes the students' experience as being "indescribable." She adds, "We are so lucky to have had this opportunity, as we are not sure of the fate of the Drama program in the upcoming years at Mission San Jose High School because of the proposed budget cuts."

Before their trip to New York the students had performed "In Unity We Stand" as a fundraiser for the Broadway Cars/Equity Fights Aids Organization, giving back to the community.

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