3 theater students qualify to perform on national stage in Nebraska
Seniors Rachel Kim (left) and Ashhad Syed in front of the photo wall after performing their scene from From This Side of Heaven at Fullerton Fest.

Three students from the Sunny Hills theater program are eligible to perform at a national, June thespian event in Nebraska after winning first place in their group acting category at the state level.

Theatre 3 seniors Ashhad Syed and Ben Woehrer and junior Grant Yang received recognition for their Romeo and Juliet comical performance based on an excerpt of the parody, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, drama teacher Amanda Gieser said. Woehrer played Romeo, Syed played Juliet and Yang narrated in the background.

The trio earned the opportunity to perform at the International Thespian Festival in June at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Gieser said.

“My team would like to go, but the thing is that it costs a lot, so we aren’t sure as of right now,” Yang said.

Yang and his acting partners said they weren’t expecting to win.

“To be honest, it felt like this shouldn’t be happening because we thought we had lost the whole day,” he said. “I thought we were going to get fifth or last or something, but they kept calling up the schools, and when our names got called for first, we were really surprised.”

Yang was referring to the March 28-30 California Thespians Festival at Upland High School, where more than 1,000 students statewide gathered to compete in theater events and attend various drama workshops.

Before that event at the March 22-23 Fullerton College High School Theatre Festival, Gieser said seniors Rachel Kim and Syed were named Top 11 finalists in the Contemporary Ensemble-Dramatic category, beating out a total of 90 participants.

“It was very exciting to have students make it to finals for the Fullerton College High School Theatre Festival and to have students place first at the California Thespians Festival,” she said. “It is quite an accomplishment when there are roughly 1,500 students competing at these festivals.”

The two performed an excerpt from the play, From This Side of Heaven, written by Don Zolidis — once on March 22 and again on March 23 — in front of two different sets of judges.

In the scene, Syed and Kim are both disabled. Syed is paralyzed from the waist down, and Kim has a permanently damaged right leg. Syed complains about how his life is ruined because of an accident, as Kim listens to him, relying on a walker to support her.

“I really liked this play because overall, it [had] a good storyline,” Syed said. “It contains [many] emotional moments like when I tell Fever [played by Kim] that people don’t look at me the same way anymore because of my disability,”

The judges critiqued the actors based on their performance, including chemistry between the actors, their understanding of the script, their ability to deliver it and the believability and the authenticity of emotions displayed during the performance.

“I believe we made it to finals because of the realistic and natural tones we utilized in the scene,” Kim said. “We [also played] people our own age, so it was [realistic] and [more] refreshing for the judges to see.”

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