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Spring 2002 l Capital University Journal
Festival sets the stage

for aspiring high school students

By Heather Robinson

Photo of Scott Zbyeyik, Vanden HighFor the past 45 years, high school students from Bakersfield to Seattle have stormed Sac State’s campus—armed with the likes of Shakespeare—for the annual Lenaea Festival.

The festival is the oldest high school drama event of its kind in the country. Last year, more than 1,000 students from 65 high schools throughout the West Coast participated. The aspiring artists performed monologues, one-act plays and duets in front of theatre professionals, academics, parents, students and the general public.

“By going to Lenaea, I felt that I grew as an actor,” says San Marin High School student Andy Zabko. “It was a very worthwhile and rewarding experience and I look forward to coming back again next year.”

And those students who aren’t acting up on stage are working feverishly behind the scenes, directing, building sets, running the lights or creating costumes.

Photo of Paul Jones, Union Mine HighEach participant receives advice and one-on-one workshops about the productions from a team of guest respondents. Each piece is also critiqued.

“I really enjoyed being critiqued because it allowed me to develop my scene,” says San Marin High School student Laura Kopp. “I loved the people, the judges and the environment.”

The Lenaea Festival was created in 1957 by professor Carl Thomas in an effort to get the relatively new Sac State campus involved with the community and connected with local high school drama departments. Since its inception, the festival has brought tens of thousands of students to campus.

“The festival enhances the University’s commitment to the arts and it’s a great recruiting tool,” says Roberto Pomo, chair of Sac State’s theatre and dance department. “We have been very fortune in that many students have decided to attend CSUS based on their experience at the Lenaea Festival.”

Another student, Paul Jones from Union Mine High School, says even if he doesn’t get to participate in the festival again, he’ll be satisfied. “They say you only live once, but after being part of the Lenaea Festival, once is enough.”

Photo of Andy Zabko & Laura Kopp, San Marin HighThe festival takes its name from the ancient Greeks. Originally staged in Athens in the fifth century B.C., the Lenaea Festival was a Dionysian celebration of the wine press and the dramatic emphasis was placed on comedy.

In 1998, the Lenaea Festival received the Northern California Educational Theatre Association award for “Excellence in Theatre Education.” In 1999, the California Alliance of Arts Education honored the festival with a special recognition for “Exceptional Contributions to Arts Education” and in 2000, Northern California Educational Theatre Association named the festival’s executive director Robert Smart as “Theatre Educator of the Year.”

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