By Tony Parra
Eastern New Mexico University will be hosting the annual High School Drama Festival on Thursday through Saturday at the University Theatre Center.
More than 500 students from 23 high schools will be participating.
Roughly 40 Portales High School theater students will participate at the festival, according to Bill Strong, theater instructor at PHS. Strong said four Portales students will be on stage to perform a play ENMU professor Jim Lee wrote: Charles Britton, Maranda Brown, Jason Dictson and Hillary Reeves. Melissa Maloney is the onstage director.
“We have a seasoned group of actors,” Strong said. “They’re very good at what they do. They’ve performed other plays such as ‘Into the Woods.’”
Strong said Dictson will play as the Tinman and Britton will act as the Scarecrow in the upcoming ‘Wizard of Oz’ play students have been working on. The Wizard of Oz play will be in three weeks in the Portales High auditorium, according to Strong.
Tatum, Roswell and Ruidoso are three of the schools within a 100-mile radius that will be participating in the performances and workshops.
“To me, one of the neatest things is that 500 kids from the state will be there,” Strong said. “They (Portales students) will be in front of their peers. It’s great to receive applause from other theater kids. It’s a tough audience to perform in front of. They know when you break character so you have to try that much harder.”
The Portales students will perform at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
The drama festival impressed a former Valley High School student so much he made the decision to attend ENMU after the festival.
Solomon Rooney, former student of the Albuquerque-based school, is a sophomore theater student at Eastern.
“The (theater) department and people were very instrumental in me coming out here,” Rooney said in a press release from ENMU. “It’s the best theater program.”
ENMU officials will be looking for high school students that may be future Rooneys as the spotlight hits the stage at 8 a.m. and stays lit until midnight on Thursday and Friday, and continues from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.