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Student Life

December 18, 2018

Students advance their theater in- Burlingame University terest in Young Playwrights Project obtains new computers PHOTO BY MOYA LIU


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On Monday Dec. 3, actors from TheatreWorks rehearsed junior Tekla Carlen’s play before the final performance. bring his audience a more optimistic outlook on life. Nelson’s play tells a story about a superhero who is sick of being taken for granted and decides to become a villain. In spite of the superhero’s hurt feelings, he later realizes the evil deeds he is committing are wrong. With the support of his friend, he overcomes the evil within and becomes a hero again. “He realizes that what others think of him doesn’t matter. He’s doing the right thing and staying true to who he is, a good person, and that’s what’s important,” Nelson said. “Things aren’t as bad as they seem. Not everything has to be taken so seriously, and the world isn’t as dark as it’s portrayed. No matter how bad things seem, there’s always good out there.”

Aside from the final productions, young playwrights enjoyed experiencing a new style of writing. “I really enjoyed that this project allowed me to try a new writing style in a structured environment,” Arcoleo said. “We had a teacher and deadlines which I think is really important because it forced me to finish my play and write it in a way that would allow it to actually be produced.” In addition, Lavilla attributes her success as a young playwright to her classmates. “Hearing the various opinions of my peers and seeing the interpretations that my classmates had for my characters were a particularly important part during the entire editing process,” Lavilla said.

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Burlingame University is an adult transition program that resides in the first floor of the F building. Although students at Burlingame University do not attend rallies or dances with other students, they are still a part of the campus. Most recently, Burlingame University made a $10 thousand purchase of 30 new Acer Chromebook 16s with the help of a GoFundMe page. These new computers have enabled students to engage in technology related curriculum much more effectively than before. “We are starting online bank-

ing, [and] without the speed [of the computers, the Burlingame University students] wouldn’t be able to budget online,” staff member Steve Meyer said. “They’re able to plan things out ... I have students plan a trip all the way to Washington [state].” The new Chromebooks have also given students a sense of normality since now they have swift access to the internet, much like other Burlingame students outside of the program. Previously, Burlingame University had older, outdated laptops. “Before, [the students] dreaded [the laptops]. It was technology that wasn’t fun [or engaging],” Meyer said. PHOTO BY HUBERT CHEN

On Monday, Dec. 3, students sat down to watch their peers’ plays showcased by professional actors in the school theater. Advanced drama students were paired up with professional playwrights for two months during the Young Playwrights Project, culminating in one night of performances. The six best works were performed on Monday, and were written by senior Carmen Lavilla, juniors Tekla Carlen, Maddie Greene and Jack Nelson and sophomores Isabella Arcoleo and Julia Li. The purpose of this playwriting competition was to encourage high school students to write and advance their interest in theater. “Home,” written by Lavilla, focuses on a girl who has to come out to her family yet faces losing support from her family. For Lavilla, the most important thing was to create a story that illustrates the difficulties a LGBTQ teen faces without proper support. “I meant to demonstrate how support systems are needed in times when people are going through massive changes in their life and when they are coming out in an unwelcoming home,” Lavilla said. While Lavilla intended to portray the frustration in life, Nelson wanted to spread positivity and


Burlingame University students Alex Millan, Mariana Cabeza and Jehu Ayala use their newly obtained Acer Chromebook 16s.

Inside a practice session with the improvisation team Managing Editor Students were chaotically placed around the Alumni Room. Each stared blankly ahead, as if they were alone. Some muttered, others roared. Some stayed in place, others rolled around on the carpet. “Okay, now you’re 55,” shouted a man wearing a red Burlingame quarter-zip sweatshirt. Two minutes later, “Now you’re 75.” Biweekly practice sessions present the opportunity for members of the Burlingame Improvisation and Theater Enthusiasts (BITE) to be vulnerable. In front of an audi-

“Hi, I put a crayon up my nose and now I can’t remember good.” -Jack Nelson ence, the cardinal rule of improvisation is to keep going, even if a joke lands poorly or a scene takes an unexpected turn. If someone asks a question, the answer is always “yes and...” But here, the improvisers are free to step into new roles, from vodka connoisseur to middle-aged guitarist, and laughingly shrug them off if the fit isn’t perfect. Jared Abbott, the man with the red Burlingame sweatshirt, glanced at his watch and called time. Abbott coaches BITE and is a special education instructor at Burlingame University. He began calling on students to share with the group their reflec-

tions on experiencing the aging process. “I liked 55 because I was going through a midlife crisis,” senior Max Sigler said. Another student, junior Jack Nelson, described how he enjoyed age 75 the most because he was “happy for once.” The next activity, Abbott explained, was to be similar yet to different. The improviseors would repeat the aging intervals, but with a twist: they had to act as characters with genders different from their own identities. Moreover, the improviseors had the task of portraying these genders authentically, rather than using the stereotypes of either “falsetto cheerleader” or “senior football player who wants a drink.” The Alumni Room filled with a cacophony of voices. Senior Suzanna Longworth adopted an English accent. Nelson began banging on a podium emblazoned with a “Burlingame Panthers” banner. (In a later skit, Nelson joked, “Hi, I put a crayon up my nose and now I can’t remember good.”) Junior Zoe McCarthy occupied the opposite corner, where she slid to the ground and raised her fists in the air. Along another wall, sophomore Finn Platkin played air guitar. At one point, sophomore Aiden Mendoza leaped over Platkin, who was sprawled out on the floor. After ten minutes, Abbott called everyone out of their positions. They gathered in a circle in the middle of the room and discussed the nuances of gender and age in improvisation. “You can be a 75-year-old and not hunch over and look like you’re going to die with every breath. You can be a 55-year-old woman not chasing around a bunch of kids,” Abbott said.



While playing an improvisation game called Hitchhiker, students acted as wine moms, film noir detectives and a group of Germans, all named Hans, who were jubilantly snacking on schnitzel. “This is quite a Hans-ful,” one student quipped. Students improvised monologues about the people they predict themselves to be several decades from now. Senior Suzanna Longworth assumed the role of a floundering middle-aged actor arguing with her companion. “He was trying to be like, ‘you can’t act anymore because you don’t make money,’ and I was like, ‘I know,’ ” Longworth said.

Members of the team spent time during the practice session exploring the emotions of sadness and lust, which were described by team advisor Jared Abbott as “...particularly difficult for high schoolers to act out.” He also noted that stereotypes such as “falsetto cheerleader” and “senior football player who wants a drink” are also common on stage.

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