The Lenaea High School Theatre Festival is an annual three-day event that brings together high school students from all over Northern California and Alaska to perform, receive assessment from experts, and attend workshops, such as stage combat or playwriting, in order to help advance their theatrical knowledge. It was hosted by the Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College— about a three hour drive from Fremont. This year, seventeen students from Washington High School and two students from Kennedy were chosen by drama teacher David Yick Koppel to attend and perform. The total of nineteen students put on a number of different performances.
The campus at Folsom Lake was crowded with other high schoolers dedicated to performing arts, and it provided a safe environment for everybody to practice and learn. Students from the 71 participating schools submitted performance pieces in four categories: one-act plays, monologues, duo scenes, and musical-theatre solos. Students also submitted set designs, costume designs, and student-written original scripts. Performances for monologues, duo scenes, and musical theatre solos were “workshopped,” allowing the students to implement suggestions from the respondents, try different choices, and explore the results. This interactive “workshopping” feature is one of the many highlights of Lenaea, setting it apart from other high school theatre festivals.
Students left Washington at 7:30 in the morning to start the long drive to Folsom, arriving just in time for the opening ceremony at 10:00. Next, students split up and chose their activities for the rest of the day. Many went to see an original one-act called Trapped by Jared Estes of Franklin High School, while others went to workshops. At 9:00 pm, the students met up to support Irvington’s original one act Pulled by student Gisele Lajevardi. At 12:30 pm on Saturday, Washington performed their one-act Bang Bang, You’re Dead, written by William Mastrosimone and directed by junior Melissa Graff. The actors were called in after their performance, and received extremely positive feedback for the show. Unfortunately, Washington had to leave before the late closing ceremony on Sunday. It came as no surprise when Washington won silver for the one-act, and freshman Gabriel Lew won the Outstanding Actor Award. Along with that, he won gold for an original monologue, and was one of the select few chosen by the judges to perform in the command performances in front of everybody. “I almost died inside, [having] to perform in front of over a thousand people,” Lew said.
Lew’s monologue captures the relationship between two ex-friends. His character has hallucinations about becoming a different person that he writes about in his stories, and he is trying to tell somebody that won’t judge him. The monologue ended with a melancholy note as the friend left him alone, and the audience burst out in applause and standing ovations. “I felt honored, and it was great to have a lot of recognition,” said Lew. He plans to continue writing his play and do even more performances at Lenaea in the following years. “I’m only a freshman, so I have a whole lot of opportunities.”
Based on the success that everybody had this season, we can be sure that Washington will return to Lenaea next year.