Castro was already scheduled to perform in a challenging two-person scene from playwright David Ives' one-act, Sure Thing. That would have been enough pressure for any actor to handle, but just two days before the festival, Hoboken High School acting teacher Jared Ramos asked if he wanted to pull double duty and perform in a second scene. This second scene was the emotionally charged and particularly complex role of John Proctor from Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible.
"I looked at this big stack of pages, with tons of lines and one long monologue," Castro said Tuesday. "With only two days to learn the part, it would have been easy to say no, but instead I said 'let's do this.' "
The next two days he learned his lines, studied the character, rehearsed and nailed the ensemble piece. That is the type of dedication that has led the Hoboken High School Drama program to be one of state's elite. Their performance was so convincing that they were chosen to represent Hudson County at the State Teen Arts Festival, which was scheduled to be held Thursday.
The students won first place for Best Large Group Performance in a drama for a scene from Act 3 of The Crucible. They also won for Best Large Group Performance in a musical for their performance of the song of the song Omm-Pah-Pah from Oliver! The Musical. They also won from the best small group performance in a drama for their turn in Sure Thing.
What's the Teen Arts Festival?
The Friends of Teen Arts, Inc., a non-profit organization, began the festival in 1969 to provide unique opportunities for young artists to exhibit their work in creative, fine and performing arts while learning from professional artists. The Friends of Teen Arts partners with schools, arts organizations and artists to encourage young artists.
The festival, which is divided into two parts, provides a workshop environment where professionals offer critiques, guidance and encouragement for young artists to develop their skills. Students had opportunities to participate in several workshops in areas like Video/Multimedia, Literary Arts/Performance Poetry/Songwriting, Theatre/Musical Theatre, Dance and Visual Arts. First, every individual county holds their own Teen Art Festival. In Hudson County, it was held on May 18 at New Jersey City University, with eight high schools from the county participating. The best and brightest from the county festival are selected to go to the state festival to perform.
More than just theater
The state festival, which was held Thursday at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, included more than 90 workshops featuring activities ranging from theater performances to poetry reading to percussion theater, and digital graphics, electronic musical composition, hip hop dancing and creative writing.
At the non-competitive state festival, the students performed there three award-winning pieces. Critiques by professional artists follow all student performances, both verbally and in writing, and are offered as an instructional tool to guide students in the use of their gifts and provide insight into the creative process.
Last May, approximately 8,000 teenagers performed or exhibited at the State Festival, representing 225 different schools from all 21 counties.
A great honor
The students were all smiles Tuesday morning as they discussed their accomplishments. "What I like most [about the drama program] is that we put in all of this time and hard work, but in the end it's worth it because we come out as family," said Junior Joy Medina.
Senior Eric Lazu added that participating in the drama program has been a major and exciting part of his education at Hoboken High School. "Being up on stage is an amazing experience," senior Eric Lazu said. "To feel the emotion flow through you and to feel the audience is incredible."
In other Drama news
But that is not all of the good news the Hoboken High students got this week.
The Mile Square Civic Association awarded Hoboken High School graduating seniors Pedro Jimenez and Colleen Kirk with the Performing Arts Outstanding Role Model Scholarship for $1,000 for high school actor and actress. The students were presented their checks by Hoboken Council Vice President Christopher Campos and Hoboken School Board President Carmelo Garcia at the Board of Education Meeting this Tuesday.
This fall, Pedro Jimenez will attend William Paterson University and Colleen Kirk will attend Syracuse University.