Theater arts students flourish in annual competition

By Dorany Pineda 

Design students from the theater arts department won big at the 49th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) that took place Feb. 14-19 at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona.

Stephen Azua and David Sanchez won first place against 68 other competitors in the Design and Technology categories of the Region 8 competitions. Azua won for his Lighting Design in East Los Angeles College’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” and David Sanchez took home first place for Costume Design for Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “Den of Thieves.”

The Region 8 competitors included community colleges and four-year universities from Hawaii, Arizona, Central and Southern California, Utah and Southern Nevada.

Among others acknowledged were Victoria Inez Rivera, who received an honorable mention for her costume design in “Measure for Measure”; Andrea Tinoco, who was given a special recognition award from the Society of Props Artisan Managers (SPAM) for her prop designs in Phuong Diep’s “My Life Was Saved by Dolphins;” Roberto Andrade, a finalist for the makeup and hair design competition for his work in Moliere’s “Tartuffe;” and Stephane Lopez, who advanced to the finals for stage management.

The design students were given five minutes to orally present their individual project boards to a five-judge panel. Their boards consisted of photographs and text that featured their design process, design concept and the research conducted. Judges then interviewed students for five minutes on their designs.

“Our design kids, not only are they mentored really well, but they get an opportunity that I think the four-year students don’t usually get until they’re juniors or seniors. So our freshmen get opportunities to design, and they’re really so creative. Their mentors really allow them a great deal of freedom to explore their creativity when they’re doing their design work,” ELAC’s theater arts artistic director Kelly Hogan said. “We’re really proud of them. I sat in on the design presentations and I was impressed with all of them. They were tremendous.”

Azua, a second-time competitor at KCACTF, said he was a bit nervous about the competition but felt well prepared. Sanchez and him will continue on to the national competitions in Washington DC later this year.

“I just told the story as I was supposed to and talked about the certain design elements, and I got a win,” Azua said. “I really didn’t believe it at first. It seemed so surreal… even though I won, I still don’t feel like I’ve won yet because my competition continues.”
Tinoco said it was an amazing moment when she heard her name called. “I didn’t get first place, so when they didn’t call my name I was a little disappointed. But then they called my name for the SPAM award, and it was really, really cool. I felt really proud of my work.”
ELAC was also one of 10 competing colleges invited to present a scene from their production of “Den of Thieves.”
Additionally, 19 of ELAC’s acting students competed with over 300 other actors at the event.

The five-day festival conference also included specialty theater workshops, an acting scholarship competition and invited productions, scenes, short plays and theater pieces  from two- and four-year colleges.
Cirque du Soleil, the largest theatrical producer in the world, hosted workshops on projections, makeup, prop design, and acting.

The KCACTF National Festival will take place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. from  April 16-22.

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