Award-winning CHS thespians prepare for Oklahoma!

A group of 48 Claremont High School students took home a multitude of awards and honors at the California State Thespian Festival in April, which was attended by more than 1200 theater students from 65 high schools throughout the state.

CHS took home three first-place awards—stage management for Allegra Fass, makeup design for Morgan Lui and duet acting for Aubrey Schoeman and Diego Henriquez. Natalie Nguyen came in second in state for short film production, and Morgan, Katherine Arboldeda, Julia Kim and Sanjana Urkudey came in third in state for group acting.

Allegra, Morgan, Eliza Anderson, Lauren Haskins and Isabel Barbee were recognized for outstanding crew work.

Elena Ramsey, Jeremiah Alarcon, Xavier Reynoso and Riley Polanski were selected to perform in the All California production. Katherine was selected to perform in Playworks, a student-written show.

Allegra, Lauren, Diego, Eliza, Isabel, Natalie, Rahannon Olea, Jonas Huffer, Myles Muniz, Shawn Clayton, Sierra La Rue and Giselle Guillen were selected to work on the All California production technical crews.

Several students received callbacks for the All California production by ranking in the top one percent of thespians in the state in a variety of categories. These students were Aubrey, Riley, Elena, Abby Weiler and Neema Shahriari in monologue; Xavier, Riley, Ashlee Robinson and Carly Sanden in solo musical; Diego and Aubrey, Neema and Caden Hengesbach, Katie Stanford and Kristen Koepp and Sophie Willard-Van Sistine and Vega Sherman-Sietz in duet acting; Candace Coe and Liz Burgis in duet musical theatre; and Allegra and Giselle in stage management.

Joining these students in the top four percent to qualify for the International Thespian Festival were Diego, Katie, Kristen, Rahannon, Allie Geurts, Carly Sanden and Ronit Kathuria in monologue; Jeremiah in solo musical; Nicole Wood and Sydney Crozier in duet acting; Lauren in costume design and costume construction; and Morgan, Katherine, Julia, and Sanjana in group acting.

Aubrey and Sophie, who served on the California State Student Thespian Board last year, both won senior scholarships. Jeremiah and Allegra won undergrad scholarships.

CHS students Riley Polanski and Candace Coe were elected to the California State Student Thespian Board, which runs the California Thespians organization.

Krista Elhai, the CHS theatre director, is excited by these results.

“We’ve done really well the last few years, but I was very pleased,” Ms. Elhai said. “That’s a lot of hard work, and it really paid off. I took a great group and they worked really hard.”

Ms. Elhai credits a variety of factors for the school’s success at the festival.

 “We have a really great legacy of older students training younger students. We do a lot of shows—we usually do seven to 10 shows a year—so they get a lot of show experience. And we make sure our actors have to do [technical work],” she said.

As the CHS theater department builds sets this week at Bridges Auditorium for its end-of-the-year production of Oklahoma!, Ms. Elhai said she relies heavily on the older students passing down skills to underclassmen.

“They’re rigging what’s going to go up above, and I made sure that at least two of the students are juniors so that when my really experienced seniors leave, I’ve got at least two people on this project that know how to rig stuff to be flown,” she said.

While Ms. Elhai has specific expectations for productions, she also relies heavily on student leadership and initiative.

“That’s really the only way they’re going to learn but it’s also the only way they’re going to problem solve and get anything out of it,” Ms. Elhai said.

Ms. Elhai is consistently impressed  by her theater students.

“They are smart and very dedicated to theatre, but I love that they have lots of other interests,” she said. “A lot of my kids are three-season athletes, they’re involved in ASB, they work, they’re running other clubs on campus. All of that makes them much more interesting theatre kids.”

Production for Oklahoma involves nearly 300 students, including actors, technicians and set builders, who have been working on the show in their theatre classes since January. This will be CHS theatre’s largest and most expensive production of the 2016-2017 school year, according to Ms. Elhai.

CHS’s actors will be performing Oklahoma! at Bridges Auditorium at Pomona College on June 1, 2, and 3 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on June 3.

Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 for children under 12. For tickets and information, visit or call (909) 624-9053 extension 30463

During Oklahoma!, CHS theatre will also be launching a Legacy Fund managed by the California Community Foundation, to help expand and maintain the program and make it less reliant on revenues, which it currently uses to fund all production costs. Donors can give to the fund by visiting

—Marc Rod


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