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February 19, 2013 > Local performers prepare to shine at theatre festival

Local performers prepare to shine at theatre festival

By Isabella Ohlmeyer
Photos By Bryan La

Richard Leider once said, ÒThe most fortunate people on Earth are those who have found a calling thatÕs bigger than they are Ð that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness and growth.Ó A passionate calling has been sparked in the lives of six Ohlone College students, Mike Tran, Brian Berkowitz, Daniel Carpenter, Steven Vogel, Edward Ochoa, and Stacey Bell, who have been nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Awards at the 45th Annual Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).

Region VII of this festival, where these students will compete in a multiple-round audition for the prestigious award, will be held in Sacramento, California, hosted by American River College from February 18-22. For 41 years, beginning in 1972, the Irene Ryan Foundation has been awarding scholarships to the most elite group of college actors throughout the world. The acting scholarship allows students Òto pay for college tuition and fees to pursue further education." Two festival adjudicators viewed Ohlone CollegeÕs fall production of ÒDog Sees GodÓ and after deliberation nominated six students, three from each cast of the show, to compete in the theatre festival.

Each nominee is required to choose a partner to accompany him or her in acting out their chosen scenes. Brian Berkowitz chose Rebecca Soltau, who performed in the opposite cast as him in ÒDog Sees God,Ó to be his partner. Soltau feels determined and utterly prepared for the upcoming competition. ÒWe've been meeting three times a week on our own time, and running everything by Michael Navarro, our ÔDog Sees GodÕ director, at least once a week so he can give us any notes he has,Ó Soltau said.

The nominees will prepare to perform in three different rounds of the Irene RyanÕs. The first round is a two-person scene, the second round is the same scene from the first round as well as a two-person contrasting scene, and the final third round is a six-minute partner scene along with a monologue or solo singing number. Although every nominee has prepared scenes for each round, they are not guaranteed a chance to perform as the judges will consult and invite selected performers to perform in the following round.

The Irene Ryan Foundation awards sixteen $500 scholarships for each regional representative annually. For nominee Berkowitz, receiving the scholarship money would be very rewarding not only financially, but personally. ÒWinning a scholarship would be incredible. I do want to pursue acting as a career, and to have a way into a quality school would make push me one step further on that path,Ó Berkowitz said.

ÒDog Sees GodÓ actor Mike Tran has a lot of talent to showcase at the festival, receiving an individual nomination as well as reprising his role as Charlie Brown in ÒDog Sees GodÓ and performing on the American River College stage along with his fellow castmates for a chance to win scholarship money and perform on a national level in Washington, D.C.

ÒPersonally, being invited to perform both with the cast, and individually as a nominee is hugely an honor. I appreciate the dedication of the whole cast in getting this great honor and opportunity for everyone,Ó Tran said.

Ohlone College is the only community college represented and competing against three other colleges, including Central Washington University, University of Idaho, and Saint MaryÕs College. In 2011, Ohlone performed for the first time at KCACTF against University of Idaho and Saint MaryÕs College; now in 2013 they will meet again in a friendly competition.

For more information on the KCACTF Region VII festival, visit

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