Some of the best times in high school were in theater competitions. The competition was called the Drama Teacher Association of Southern California (DTASC). The rules were simple enough. No costumes or props. We had four chairs to work with to create a scene. There were several categories such as small group drama, large group drama, small group comedy and etc. It was simple, yet we had to get creative with our four chairs. I mean some of these schools that competed were incredible. Everything was thought out from their hair to their simple clothing and so on. There were so many things happening at the same time. Someone would be harmonizing while the other person would be tapping on a chair to add a dramatic feel to it. It was incredible. There were a few challenging rules like certain categories couldn’t have broken up scenes, it had to be one scene from a play. Every category had a time limit. It would range from five to eight minutes.
My first two competitions were freshmen year of high school. I had no idea what to expect. I remember doing a skit called the Children’s Hour for the first competition and we got to the finals with it but didn’t place. We received an honorable mention ribbon. The second competition was the Shakespeare festival. My group and I performed a skit from A Midsummer’s Dream. We also received an honorable mention. It was fine. We made it further than I expected. I mean we went to the finals for both competitions in our first year. I fell in love with the competition. I loved the process of finding a beautiful story and creating an amazing scene. In middle school, I helped direct a play but it was mostly doing what the teacher wanted. These scenes were completely independent. Ms. Swan would only give us notes. The students were in charge of finding the play, casting, blocking the scenes, and every other detail needed. We had to learn to work together, commit to rehearsals, dedicate our hearts and trust our own creativity.
During my Jr year, when I finally made it back to play production, I performed a five-minute scene with my four team members called “Five Kinds of Silence.” I was part of a strong team and the story was incredibly sad. The story was about a father sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing his wife and two daughters. It was a really dark play but it was an important story. My team and I put so much heart into our scene. We were confident. First, we performed at parent night, which was nerve-wracking for me. My mom and brother came to my show. My family was not supportive of my passion for theater. My father didn’t even show up. The scene had a make-believe make-out scene that involved me and my teammate, Marlon. It was all pretend. We didn’t actually make out but my mother and brother were livid. They were embarrassed by my performance. This was a bummer. I was so proud of my scene and all they saw was a disappointment. Still, I had to be careful because what if they didn’t allow me to compete. The competition was on a Saturday for the entire day. I never went out without my family. Also, we performed at our school for an entire day. This helped us get the practice we needed and to get the jitters out. I have no idea how I would perform in front of a huge audience. I know I would be really nervous if I did that now. Our scene was powerful, and the energy from the audience could be felt. Honestly, as performers, we would feed off of that energy and it was one of the most magical moments ever. I could hear their breathing becoming heavier as the scene went on. It was incredible.
The festival was a blast. We made it to the finals after performing for three rounds. When they announced the winners, everyone from that school would gather around. The announcer would announce all the winners for the categories. They would announce all the honorable mentions and then the top four winners. The first-place winners would perform in front of everyone right then and there. When it was our turn, we went up on stage with all the other schools who went to the finals. We huddled together and held hands. They announced all the honorable mentions first and guess what…we didn’t get called. Do you know what that means? We were going to place! The announcer called out the fourth place and it wasn’t us! Guess what? We were in the top three. We ended up placing in third place even though we felt like we should have been first. But come on! Third place out of so many schools in Southern California!
The following year was my senior year and it was our last shot to actually place at a competition. For the first competition, I was part of a large group drama and we performed a play based on true events called the Laramie Projects. It was another heavy story about a young gay man who was murdered in a brutal way. I am proud of the work we did with that piece and my best friend, Aaron, was in the group with me. I do remember feeling frustrated with my group for not being focused during rehearsal sometimes instead we played dark tag. Dark tag was when we would turn off all the lights in the auditorium and play hide and seek. It was a blast. Those are some wonderful memories. We performed at parent night and my family didn’t show up. We also performed in front of the school again and it was great. We went to the competition and we didn’t get first place but we placed in fourth place, which was again pretty awesome given how many schools were part of the competition. I remember that moment when they called out our school name.
All I could hear was cheering and yelling but more importantly, a certain type of solidarity with my team. This was definitely the group that I remember the most. It was the most memorable win too for some reason. I remember when they called us for fourth place, we all hugged each other. It was so sincere and there was so much of plain old love. I remember some classmates from other categories saying they didn’t even like our scene and I was shocked that they would say this to me. We were all part of the same school so I would assume that we should support each other.
The final competition that I attended for my senior year was DTASC Shakespeare festival. We had other competitions throughout the school year but they were overnight and my parents wouldn’t allow me to go. To be honest, I get it. High school can be a dangerous time for teenagers. I was part of a large group drama and we had to perform eight minutes of Julius Caesar.
It was the most technical piece that I was part of. I remember when Caesar died and he said his famous line “e tu brute,” we had created a thrown out of chairs. The thrown was going to collapse back while Brutus sat on the thrown and two of us were to catch it from behind. I don’t know how many times my classmate, Hector, fell off that chair. We finally got it but during the competition, the thrown was crushing my hand. If you know anything about theater, you know that you don’t break character. We got third place for this performance and later on, we found out that we were chosen as one of the best festival scenes that year. We were disappointed because we wanted to be in the first place so badly.
I am so grateful to God for allowing me to be part of the theater. It is definitely one of the highlights of my teenage life. I had forgotten how much it meant to me. Now that I have written about it, all the good memories are coming back.
I found an old program for the 2010 DTASC competition and I found the rules for the competition too.