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After theater festival, student draws attention to dissatisfaction through social media post

Theater+students+take+a+group+photo+at+Lenaea+festival.+Photo+by+Ashley+Marvin.
Theater students take a group photo at Lenaea festival. Photo by Ashley Marvin.

Theater students take a group photo at Lenaea festival. Photo by Ashley Marvin.

Theater students take a group photo at Lenaea festival. Photo by Ashley Marvin.

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They were preparing for their most important performance, yet their director was nowhere to be found.

For three days beginning Feb. 2, the Lenaea High School Theatre Festival took place at the Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom. Swarming with hundreds of kids from local schools in the Sacramento region to even some within the Bay Area, every student was there to expand and act upon their theater arts passion and talents. According to the festival’s mission statement, the goal is to “advance the education of high school theater arts students by offering opportunities to strengthen, promote and share artistic skills within an interactive and supportive educational environment.” But students from the theater program felt their experience fell short.

According to participants, the weekend was filled with huge disconnects and intense feelings of being poorly supported. Some even expressed a lack of support from their theater director, Mr. Josh Ansley.

“The students had to take charge when we had a lack of leadership. We had to sign ourselves in and prep ourselves on stage,” Ashley Marvin said.

Compared to other schools, within the theater program there was a disconnect between the students as well as between them and their leadership. Students felt as though only a few of them were supporting each other during intense and competitive performances and felt an absence from their director.

Generally, a director’s role at the festival is to be alongside his or her students during opening and closing ceremonies as well as be with them before performances to get them ready. For one-acts, a performance with a single act instead of several, the director is supposed to be with performers an hour before they go on stage and guide them during the check-in process. Although they can do whatever they would like to in between performances and events, it is expected of a director to be a source of support during their performances.

Marvin said, “[Our director] showed up before it started but like 5 minutes before. It was completely student-run. No matter what, we had to become adults and [become] our own director in that moment because we didn’t really have anyone to help us.”

On the morning of Feb. 4, Marvin posted a tweet captioned “Please get this out there, it’s unacceptable” with #WeAreLenaea and four pictures of text explaining her growing dissatisfaction towards the lack of support within the program and from their teacher. Featuring some fairly vulgar language, she explained what happened over the the previous two days at Lenaea.

 

“I wasn’t pointing fingers. I don’t want to blame anyone, I just wanted to let people understand that this is what we went through this weekend. I posted that because I’m very opinionated and prideful, and I think this weekend reminded me why I’m so proud to be in this Whitney program and just to be a theatre kid. The post was to support anyone who hasn’t felt like a family and has lost someone to back them up,” Marvin said.

But after her tweet got attention, Marvin said another student turned her into the office, and then she was pulled out of her theater class Feb. 5. Marvin said she had not been placed in another class and would be in the office during that period as a temporary solution enforced by administration until matters could be solved. Assistant Principal Mr. Jeff Dietrich and Discipline Technician Mrs. Dee Thomas both declined to comment for this story about the action being taken and would not provide any information of what offense requires a punishment such as removal from a class, as no offense similar to her action is listed in the student handbook.

As the students involved in the program face this incident, Ansley reflects on his experience at the festival.

“I think it was a great learning experience for everyone. There’s some bumps along the way as there always will be when you’re trying to start something new and a new person comes in with a new personality and a different idea than others. I think it kinda shed light on where we are at this point. I actually thought that we did really well in everything we did, and I thought we competed well even though we didn’t win any awards, but that really shouldn’t be our focus. The thing is everyone got better as a performer. That’s what should matter,” Ansley said.

In regards to where they go from here, Ansley is looking forward, not back.

Ansley said, “It doesn’t really deter what we are going to do here, and it’s not going to take away from my excitement and my vision and passion for it and my love for theater and for everything that we do.”

As the theater students try to move on from this, some of the theater students are acting upon their newfound unity.

Jenny Nakano said, “I feel like Lenaea has definitely brought us closer. We’ve been a family more after this weekend and even students I haven’t really talked to before know about it, and it’s just another thing for us to connect about.”

 

by EMMA KACHMAR and CAMERYN OAKES

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After theater festival, student draws attention to dissatisfaction through social media post