Theater Arts department wins festival awards

By Marc Anthony Martinez

East Los Anegles College theater arts students won awards from The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for Region 8. The group also competed, participated and networked in the festival.

KCACTF hosts eight regional festivals during the year to recognize and advance the work of community college and university theater programs including California, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Arizona.

The ELAC Theater Department took 25 students to this year’s Region 8 festival at Glendale Community College from Feb. 12 to 17.

Miriam Cervantes was honored with the Literary Managers Dramaturgs of the Americas Early Career Dramaturgy Award; it recognizes the insightful contributions to dramatic analysis.

As a dramaturg, she studies plays by researching the author, time-period of the show, themes, prior productions and other key world-building information.

“I’m glad I won the award because, while the week was very informative and I learned a lot, it was practically hell for me because I was everywhere. Everyone needed me. I barely got any sleep or breaks. All the crying, anxiety and depression was worth it because the award told me, ‘It’s okay. You’re doing good, keep going,’” Cervantes said.

She is happy with how things have turned out since joining the Theater Arts Department three years ago. Vanessa Pellegrini, a professor in the Theater Arts Department, convinced her to join.

“Theater really changed me. It opened me up as a person especially, vocally. Getting to know people made me feel more comfortable with myself. Theater helps you do that,” Cervantes said.

She was the first Dramaturg the ELAC Theater Department nominated for the KCACTF’s Dramaturgy award.

“What’s really cool is that she’s the only Dramaturg here at ELAC. But when she went to the festival, she met like nine or 10 other people that are interested in the same thing as her,” Pellegrini said.

Pellegrini was there to support and mentor the students and help with anything they needed. Pellegrini use to be the Irene Ryan co-director for the region, coordinating and running the acting part of the competition. She was excited her students got a chance to attend this even and win awards.

“I was there primarily to support and mentor the students,” Pellegrini said.

Krystyna Colocho is another award winning student. She is has the opportunity to go to the Kennedy Center in an all-expense paid trip to represent the region in set designs.

“She is now getting an opportunity to go to the Kennedy Center as a representative not only for the best in the region for set design, but also to represent East L.A College in (Washington) D.C.,” Pellegrini said.

Cindy Campos received the Heart of the Art Award for Theatrical Design Excellence in Props, showcasing her creative problem-solving in property design.

Maribel Chavez earned the Randy Lutz Allied Design and Technology Award Regional Honorable Mention in Makeup Design, demonstrating her innovative approach and successful makeup design process.

Giovanny Benavente was recognized with the Next Steps Rising Star Award in Acting,

highlighting his talent and dedication to the craft.

Alexis Castro received the Aspire Arts Leadership Alternate Award for Region 8, acknowledging his exemplary leadership qualities and commitment to the arts.

Alexa Mora was nominated for the Irene Ryan nominee in acting, but didn’t make it to the second round. She was able to go to separate auditions as part of the festival and enjoyed the learning experience.

“Just going on that audition and auditioning with people you have never seen before, it’s not your school it’s a more professional setting. It’s already a learning experience,” Mora said.

The production she was nominated for was ‘Faith’ where she played the role of Esperanza, the mother of Faith. She also had a make-up design for ‘A Christmas Carol’ production. Her design made it to the finals.

“The most important thing in this is going to places like that, events like that, where you can get to network and really step into the professional world,” Mora said.

She came back motivated for her craft and with new ideas for her designs.

Noemi Avalos Vargas was part of a scene directed in the festival and didn’t get much time to do other things while at the festival, but she wants to be a director. She saw how the KCACTF works for ELAC students.

“I think it’s nice to see how other colleges’ directors and their point of view from other people and the plays they chose and how they directed it, or how they see those stories come to life versus how I would or anyone else would,” Avalos Vargas said.

The week-long event was full of entertainment, networking and experiences for those theater art students who hope to make this a career. It showed them the many possibilities they have in the field.

“There’s more to theater that can actually have a living. You can actually be in theater through education or through all these other programs, and it’s nice to see that. That’s what these people do and they still get to be involved in theater and make a living because theater is not very good when it comes to making a living,” Avalos Vargas said.

Pellegrini said the future looks bright for the Theater Department.

They have two shows happening this semester she feels are wonderful representations of what they are doing in their department.

“Electricidad” will open in April,

“Colossal” will be opening in May.

“Our department is thriving right now. Enrollment is good. We can always be better,” Pellegrini said.

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