Plays are often a great way to escape reality; you sit for a couple hours and become immersed in the realm of the story, sympathizing with characters and waiting to see what will be unveiled. However, we sometimes forget that the actors spend numerous hours studying their characters in order to transform into their roles, on top of being full-time students, often with jobs.
Following the production of Much Ado About Nothing, Professor of Theatre & Communication Arts and director Gil Gonzalez sent out a campus wide e-mail congratulating the cast and informing us that two students, senior Jennice Ontiveros (Don Pedro) and junior Courtney Smith (Balthasar/Friar Francis/the Sexton), have been nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition.
Both Ontiveros and Smith noted that they did not have the Irene Ryan nomination in mind when they started the production last month but are both excited to have received an invitation.
Ontiveros, a Business Administration and Theatre & Communication Arts double major, has been involved in five productions with the theatre arts department. She was a part of the cast of Lorca in a Green Dress that traveled to Columbia, South America in 2009. Much Ado About Nothing was the last production she would participate in at Whittier College.
“I think it’s a sort of an unspoken competition among the actors to earn one,” Ontiveros said.
“I just knew that it was my last show and I wanted to give it my all.” This is her second nomination; she was previously nominated for her performance in Iphigenia & Other Daughters a year ago.
She has started looking at many plays to find a character she can identify with so that she can progress with character analysis and building through table-work. She did not feel that she went into last year’s competition as prepared as she could have; thus, she plans to break down and build back up her pieces this year.
Ontiveros is looking for pieces with which she identifies and can feel more like herself that is where the truth comes true.
Smith is a Theatre Communication Arts major. She has been involved with three productions at Whittier College, in both behind-the-scenes and on-stage roles.
“It is an honor just to be nominated, I didn’t expect it,” Smith said. This is her first nomination for the competition, and she planned to attend the event anyway but she is now more excited that she has the opportunity to compete.
Smith is excited to research and find a partner to start practicing her pieces with. She is looking through many musical scenes. She does not have expectations, it is, “terrifying and exciting,” to her that all she hopes for is, “good fun and great exposure.”
Gonzalez advises both Ontiveros and Smith and is extremely proud of his students. Much Ado About Nothing was the first production he had worked on with Smith in an on-stage role; she was an assistant stage manager in spring 2010 for Gonzalez’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“I was impressed that [Smith] was able to juggle the many requests I threw at her: performing multiple roles, singing various songs, moving scenery,” Gonzalez said. “Moreover, I trusted that she could handle the challenges of her roles.”
Gonzalez has worked with Ontiveros a lot more, in recent productions Ontiveros has been in leading roles and Gonzalez, “often looked to her for her leadership skills in getting [others] through warm-ups, focusing on scenes and her overall presence in the ensemble.”
This competition allows students to showcase the material they have carefully chosen, researched, analyzed and prepared for to an audience of other undergraduate and graduate level students within the region.
Aside from the competition there are also guest speakers that hold workshops for the nominees which create a learning experience through both the competition process and the informative workshops that provide a glimpse into the entertainment industry.
In addition to Ontiveros and Smith, seniors Grace Dambier and Ben Mitchell were nominated for previous productions.
Dambier for her work in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mitchell for his work on Beauty of the Father, both are eligible to participate and will also prepare a series of scenes and monologues for the competition.
The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) takes place at the Los Angeles Theatre Center from Feb. 8 to 12, 2011 where the nominees will compete with both undergraduate and graduate actors in Region VIII which includes schools from Hawaii, Guam, California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona.