FC High School Theater Festival returns in-person after three years of pandemic restrictions


Fullerton College students look at the banners placed by the institutions who attended the Fullerton College High School Theater festival. on Mar. 17,2023 Photo credit: Gerardo Chagolla

Pedro Saravia, Staff Writer

The Fullerton College High School Theater Festival drew many schools out to its first in-person edition in three years, after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. From Cerritos to Fresno, theater students from various California high schools participated in workshops and competed in theater contests on Friday March 17 and Saturday March 18.

According to the Fullerton College Theater Arts Department, the annual event started in March of 1981 and has had more than 20,000 students from a total of 150 different high schools come to the college and participate in all the workshops and competitions the festival has to offer.

From 2020 to 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the festival to a virtual format, which, according to some of the attending teachers and students, required them to prepare and elaborate scenes on video. But it was missing one of the biggest elements in theater: the element of live performance.

Some high school theater teachers told of how they had participated as students in the past and wanted to be part of the festival. “It’s an event that I did when I was in high school and so it’s just been something that I brought to the students when I took over the program a long time ago. It’s good to be back,” said Cerritos High School theater instructor, John Zamora.

Cerritos High School students interact with each other and plan their activities at the Fullerton College High School Theater Festival on Mar. 17, 2023.
Cerritos High School students interact with each other and plan their activities at the Fullerton College High School Theater Festival on March 17, 2023. Photo credit: Gerardo Chagolla

Theater students from various high schools were offered the opportunity to attend and were required to prepare for the event months before. “For me, I let the kids know that this was an opportunity and to be prepared as early as November, so kids had been working on their designs and performances since the fall semester,” said Bianca Ankrum, theater teacher at Edison High School.

The theater arts department explained that the fee for enrolling a school in the festival was $200 and the students who attended also paid $50 for their individual enrollment.

Some students who attended saw the event as a chance to perform their hobby and compete with others. “I enjoy doing theater, so I took it as an opportunity to do it in competition,” said Sunny Hills High School senior, Emmanuel Ceballos.

High School students glance at the different school banners on the initiation speech of the Fullerton College High School theater festival on Mar.17, 2023
High School students glance at the different school banners during the initiation speech at the Fullerton College High School Theater Festival on March 17, 2023. Photo credit: Pedro Saravia

The event started with a parade of all the school’s presenters, each carrying a banner by a selected student representative of the institution who then placed the banner in front of the library facing the quad, where it stayed as such for the duration of the event.

The contests also included competing for best acting in dramatic, humorous, contemporary, classic, and modern monologue scenes as well as best musical theater performance. The HSTF webpage announced new additional categories, in the ensemble and monologue sections, and an Acting for Film category to better include the mediums used as theatre continues to progress.

The attending schools were also required to bring their own equipment and prepare for the specific competitions they were enrolled in.

The event concluded with an award ceremony on Saturday night, in which schools received first to third place prizes decided by judges in each of the competition categories including performance and tech achievement.

Verdugo Hills High School teacher, Amanda Swann believes that the event is inspirational for high school students with theater career aspirations. “I think that the students get a chance to be inspired by other students and by other schools and their interpretations and their innovation and I always hope each year that my students also inspire other people,” said Swann.

Some high school students said they were enthusiastic and happy for all the benefits the event could provide to them. “I think it is a really great event to form bonds with each other and other schools,” said Troy High School junior, Eleanor Yauney. “I think it’s a really great learning opportunity to learn more about theater and the rehearsal process.”

Next year’s Fullerton College High School Theater Festival is expected to return in March of 2024.