LASC Honored For Virtual Theater Performance

Posted on: 01/08/2021


Los Angeles Southwest College has once again garnered accolades and honors from Kennedy Center American College Region VIII Theatre Festival organizers, this time following the stellar production “The Threat” in which students confronted recent cases of police brutality against African Americans from the virtual stage.

The performances, which were screened from December 19-21 on Zoom due to COVID-19 precautions, featured original music and writing from the college’s Experimental Theatre Lab students and artwork by LASC’s visual art students. The theater program is under the direction of Assistant Professor Jonathan Pope Evans and the art program is led by Associate Professor Lauren Evans.

"It was really scary to explore police brutality in ‘The Threat.’  It hit me close to home being a mother of five boys and one girl and being African American,” said Darleta Metchell Sherman, a theater major at LASC. “It made me take a long hard look at what we are facing as a family.  I never knew the work would be so personal."

Following a review of the December 19 performance, Region VIII festival organizers asked LASC art students as well as theater and art faculty members to discuss the creation and development of a selected portion of the production at the virtual Region VIII festival that will take place in February 10-13, 2021. 

“I think this is a huge honor and I am really excited for the students involved in both programs,”  Jonathan Pope Evans said.

The visual art students took written dialogue from the play and created original artworks weaving the text into the work.  The artwork was displayed before the production of the play to set the tone. The discussion with the students and faculty at the Region VII festival will be titled “Los Angeles Southwest College’s Experimental Theatre Lab:  Engaging Community in Activism and the Arts”. 

“The visual art students were so excited to collaborate with the theater students in the production of “The Threat,” Lauren Evans said. 

As has become commonplace in recent years, the recognition just keeps coming for LASC’s Experimental Theatre Lab students. The success is no surprise based on the transformational experiences that students say that they have as part of the program and the way that they are encouraged and supported by Jonathan Pope Evans

J.P. Evans has challenged me in many ways -- in my acting and in my personal life," theater major Sarah Nyenke said. "The goal is to challenge yourself to be your best and bring your best self to the work.  It's unlike anything else." 

Region VII festival organizers nominated LASC students Dominick Edwards, Ernesto Castellanos, and Ramond Thomas for regional Irene Ryan Acting Awards. The honor celebrates the recipient as well as provides financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. One nominee and partner from every region will be invited to the national festival in the spring and the nominee will receive a $500 scholarship. The LASC students will learn if they have been selected for this prestigious honor at the regional festival in February. 

Following the December performances of the original 50-minute show that asks the question: “What is the American sickness that we suffer from?,” several theater students also learned that they would be honored or recognized at the Region VIII festival. They are:

  • Ramond Thomas and Justin Suhr, who were nominated for sound design and media design awards,

  • Tyana Haywood and Craig Mitchell Sherman, who were nominated for lead devisers,

  • Sheronda Jacobs was nominated for a stage management award,

  • Donnise Vonner was nominated for a Dramaturgy award, which recognizes contributions by student dramaturgs to the conception, development, and production of theater within their college, and 

  • Darleta Mitchell Sherman and Philip Jones, who will receive Meritorious Achievement Awards.

The Region VIII festival, which is held each February to celebrate college and university theater in the country’s southwestern region, is one of several that make up a national program overseen by the acclaimed The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The federally funded performing arts center located in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to the improvement of collegiate theater.

LASC students will perform “The Threat” at the Region VII festival alongside works from other colleges throughout the southwestern region. One of the college productions showcased will be chosen by judges to perform in spring at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., pending the state of COVID-19 in the country.

"I've been a part of teams before, but never with a team like this," LASC theater major Nzinga Lewis said. "Being a part of ‘Criminal’ last year and "The Threat" this year brought out a confidence in myself that was still hidden."

The Theater Program was nationally honored last spring by the Kennedy Center for their production of “Criminal,” which details the historic and horrific murder of Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi. The incredibly powerful and moving piece was recognized with The Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award, Outstanding Production Ensemble, and Outstanding Company-Generated Work.

LASC's Black History Month Committee and Arts and Humanities Department will present a very special performance virtually of 'The Threat' at 7 p.m. February 25, 2020. Additional details will be forthcoming.

"Being in the LASC Experimental Theatre Lab has shown me that theater is not just about telling stories, but theater can also change lives,” said Philip Jones, a recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award and theater major. “I know my life has changed from being in the group.  And I believe we have changed many lives in our community with our projects.”