Opportunities abound for DVC drama in Mile High City Festival


Drama students Scott Tsubota and Jordan Smith perform “Timeless to Me” from the musical “Hairspray” during their trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Denver, Colorado on February 20th. (Photo courtesy of Scott Tsubota.)

Isaac Norman, staff member

With resumes, portfolios, headshots, monologues and warm clothing prepared, 29 DVC theater students and department chair Nicole Hess-Diestler touched down in Denver, Colorado on Feb. 19th ready to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

The week-long festival, which ran from Feb. 20 to the Feb. 24, was abound with opportunities to audition for parts and programs, learn different acting techniques and skills, network, have a fun time and perhaps above all else, share a collective passion and camaraderie for the performing arts with other students and teachers from the Pacific Northwest.

“It was really interesting going and seeing what other people have to offer and…just meet with people that are from different areas and bring different perspectives and techniques in to sample everything and just be a sponge and soak it all up and see what you can use with it,” Tyler Page said, one of DVC’s student-performers.

Page, along with other students, auditioned for Next Step, which provides a major jumping off point for those looking to be seen and heard by casting directors, professional theater companies and schools with four year theater programs as well as for design and technical students looking to showcase their work to interested parties.

His efforts resulted in a callback to the Stella Adler Conservatory, an intensive acting school that boasts Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Mark Ruffalo, Salma Hayek, Bryce Dallas Howard and other notable stars among its alumni.

After two months of practice and vocal lessons, Rachel Kennealy was ready to sing at her Next Step audition.

But right before the trip, she got sick and the night before her 9 a.m. audition she completely lost her voice.

With the help of her friends she picked a dramatic Shakespeare monologue to perform instead and worked on her monologue along with other students who would be auditioning the next day.

Together they critiqued and supported each other.

The next morning people were blown away by what they perceived to be her character choice of a raspy voice and she was rewarded with callbacks to the University of Wyoming, Gonzaga University and Miracle Theatre Group in Portland, Oregon.

“If everything had gone well I don’t think I would have learned as much as I did with it going awry because having to pull something out at 11 p.m. the night before…I need to have things prepared to pull out of my back pocket if things like this happen and to be able to just hone in and go to work and not stress and just be like, well this is what it is, go for it,” said Kennealy.

Although not every student who auditioned received a callback, their auditions still held immense value.

“In theater, networking is really really important so in the future someone might be like, ‘Oh, hey you were at Festival in 2017 and I liked the work you did. I’ll put in a good word for you,’” Katie Sonas said, drama student.

DVC’s network paid huge dividends when students got a private meet and greet with the head of acting at Southern Oregon University Jackie Apodaca, a prestigious acting school that helps put on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which according to Page, is similar to the Broadway of the West Coast.

They were able to get this private meet and greet based on the connection Wallace Yan, another student-actor and prop design specialist at DVC, formed with her while interning at the Summer Repertory Theatre in 2015 when she was a director. A year later  the two worked together on a show called “Things Reveal Themselves Passing Away.”

Alongside the flood of workshops and auditions students found ways to have fun and get to know each other in informal settings, too.

The festival itself put on plays on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday along with a 90s themed dance party on Wednesday and a prom themed dance party on Friday.

Some students also put together a mixer of their own.

The people who came through the door came from every part of the region and all shared a common bond: “Who are you? Where are you from? Tell me what state you’re from and we can get along because we speak the same language because we speak the language of theater,” Sonas said.

They also got to connect with DVC alumni who are now studying at the University of Idaho.

“It’s so cool to see people that were here previously go off and do other things and then come back and tell us, ‘This is what I’m learning right now you should come to this school because this is what you’re going to learn here,’” Page said.

“It’s incredible to see what the future has in store and the path we’re sort of following.”