The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

ENMU hosts drama festival


February 27, 2019

Jamie Cushman

From left, Abby Howell, a senior at Artesia High School, and Meghan Lexa, a freshman at Aztec High School, practice punching during an unarmed stage combat workshop on Friday.

PORTALES - Dozens of high school students were punching and hitting each other on the Eastern New Mexico University campus on Friday. But don't worry. It wasn't part of an underground fight club.

The violence was pretend, part of the 64th annual high school drama festival, which drew a little over 400 students from all around the state to take part in the student-sponsored event that provides critiques, workshops, audition and scholarship opportunities for high school drama students.

Workshops on stage combat, dance, makeup, lighting and nearly any other skill used in digital filmmaking and theater are taught by ENMU students and faculty, according to student coordinator Kay Ewing and faculty advisor Jon Barr, an associate professor of digital filmmaking.

"One thing I like is there are a few events similar to this around the state, but they're competitions," Barr said. "This is not a competition, it's a festival. So people are here just to celebrate and share, they're not competing with each other."

Nakia Jackson, a junior at Portales High School, said she has been attending the festival for the past couple of years because she enjoys performing and met several close friends through theater.

"Mostly it's just a fun way to get to know other people in the state who also do theater," Jackson said. "I think the whole process of learning lines and becoming a character is exciting."

Brandon Welsh, a senior film major at ENMU, said attending the festival when he was a high schooler strongly influenced his decision to become a Greyhound, where now each year he gets to host students from his old school, El Dorado High School in Albuquerque.

"I was at this festival as a high schooler for three years and then when I became a freshman I was able to host ever since and I'm a senior now," Welsh said. "It's been cool to see the different generations that have been coming to this festival and all the different ways the theater has been growing."

Welsh said he hopes students take away from the four-day event "just the appreciation for theater and film. It's just such a unique collaborative experience," he said.

The festival also provides a benefit to the university students, as they were able to perform "Las Arañas" for the high schoolers, a play directed by Barr and written by Portales native Leonard Madrid that will make its world premiere on Thursday.

"This is a great opportunity for us to unveil it and then next week is when we show it to the public," Barr said. "It's one of the best audiences you can have; it's a packed audience of people who love theater."

Madrid, an ENMU grad now living in Albuquerque, said it was a whole different experience seeing his play performed in front of hundreds of students.

"There was a wave of freaked-outedness at one point I would call it. They were a really verbal and excited audience," Madrid said.

Of course the focus of drama festival week for Barr, who is also directing "Las Arañas," is sharing a love of theater, providing networking opportunities for the students and maybe even inspiring them to help put on the drama festival in future years.

"Hopefully all of them will have a passion for theater and lifelong friendships," Barr said. "Since it's student run, they can see themselves and dream about 'maybe I'll be the (student coordinator) some day.'"


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