Long Island City, NY—Five LaGuardia Community College students who were involved in the production of “Little Shop of Horrors” were nominated to compete in the Kennedy Center’s American Collegiate Regional Theater Festival, a highly competitive audition that will attract over 300 students from colleges and universities throughout the northeast.
The five students nominated for Musical Theater Initiative and/or Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships are:
• Daniel Feliz, who played Seymour, the innocent florist who discovers a mysterious plant. He was nominated for two awards: a Musical Theater Initiative and an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.
• Jasmine Holloway, who was cast in the role of Chiffon, the lead singer of the four-women chorus. She was nominated for a Musical Theater Initiative.
• Tiffany Scott, one of two Audreys, Seymour’s co-worker in the florist shop and love interest. She was nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.
• Javon Minter, the voice of Audrey II, the man-eating plant from outer space. He was nominated for an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.
• Patrick Surillo, the production stage director, who received an Outstanding Stage Management nomination.
Two students—Kamila Lipinska, who also played Audrey; and Francisco Carrillo, who was cast in a multitude of roles–were named Irene Ryan Acting alternates.
“Participation in the festival is an incredible component to the college theater student’s experience,” said Professor Stefanie Sertich, who submitted the College’s first-ever application to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). “And the fact that our students were not only selected, but garnered the most nominations, is quite an accomplishment. I couldn’t think of a better way to launch the new Theater major.”
Started in 1969, KCACTF is a national theater program whose mission is to improve the quality of college theater in the U.S. Its network comprises more than 600 academic institutions nationwide and involves 18,000 student artists who showcase their work.
The nomination process began last May when Professor Sertich invited two festival judges to attend the production of the comedy horror rock musical. Professor Jason Ramirez, the show’s director, staged a production that was based on the original Roger Corman B-movie of 1959.
To capture the feeling of Corman’s work, Dr. Ramirez, interspersed archival black and white film footage from the original, and staged the first act in black and white; a full color palette was added in the second act. “It was very ‘Wizard of Oz,’” he said.
Professor Lisa DeSpain was the musical director and Steven Hitt, the Managing Director of LPAC, was the choreographer. Dr. Ramirez recruited a stellar design staff—a lighting designer from the Roundabout Theater Company and a costume designer from the Ridiculous Theater Company— and a band of Broadway musicians.
But the 13 student cast members were the stars. “The judges applauded the tremendous effort, commitment and talent of our cast and crew,” said Professor Sertich. “What impressed them most was that only a few of our students had ever performed on stage before.”
That included Daniel, a 19-year-old Theater major who captured two nominations, and Javon, a Philosophy major, who was the voice of Audrey II, the very hungry plant. “What I found interesting was that Javon, who was not physically onstage, was nominated for what he did with his voice,” said Dr. Ramirez.
Another impressive first-time execution, he said, was Patrick’s stage direction. “He called a very intricate show, which involved a lot of lighting, sound, set and video cues,” he said. “It was a ridiculous amount of work for a veteran stage manager, and he handled it like a pro.”
The professor added that what makes Patrick’s nomination even more impressive is that, as a rule, the students who compete in this category come with years of stage managing experience.
Dr. Ramirez said that although the College’s theater program is in its infancy, he is not surprised over the students’ impressive work. “We are 15 minutes from Broadway, so the level of training we are giving the students is of that caliber,” he said. “It would not make sense to train them at a lesser level.”
The five nominees now have six months to practice their song and scene selections and develop their script for the regional festival auditions held at Cape Cod Community College in January. At the five-day festival, the students also will participate in a wide range of workshops, including playwriting, acting, singing, design and stage management, all taught by professionals.
Selected from each of the eight regional festivals will be the top two candidates. The 16 students who reach this stage will receive a $500 scholarship and the chance to compete in the national festival held in Washington, D.C., in April 2013.
But for now, the theater professors are focusing on getting the students prepared for the nationals. “This is the first time they are involved in a high-stakes audition,” said Professor Sertich, “and we are going to make sure they are ready.”
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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.