A group of Hoboken High School students set a new school record recently when they took home 10 awards from the New Jersey Thespian Festival, a theater competition that pits around 630 young actors and actresses from around the state in contests for acting, improvisation, and stage setup.
Seniors Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, Jaemison Yoon-Hendricks, and Danielly Colon took home Accomplished Awards for their contrasting monologues. Jameison also took home the Judges Select prize in the short film category, while his sister won first place in the Theater Marketing category.
Sophomore Gina Rotondi won for her contrasting monologues, while fellow sophomore Brittney Colon won for her dramatic monologue.
Allison Feinstein, a sophomore, and the rest of the team also won second place in the group Technical Olympics competition, which tests the entire group’s ability to execute complicated backstage maneuvers, such as set changes, prop organization, and costume changes.
“To see them put in this work and come this far, it’s incredibly rewarding.” – High school drama teacher Danielle Miller
Danielle Miller, the school’s performing arts teacher and head of the Drama Club, said that the students’ growing success over the past few years (Hoboken has taken home more awards than the previous year every time it has competed) is a testament to hard work and a special type of program.
“This is all about building a legacy,” she said. “When we started we were only winning three awards a year, but from an educator’s standpoint, to see them put in this work and come this far, it’s incredibly rewarding. It was an exciting hour when they were announcing the winners – I was jumping up and down in the aisle.”
Last week, each of the winners discussed their experiences at the festival and spoke about the work they put in to their team and individual productions.
Jaemison’s short film, “Winner,” ended up being a significantly different movie then the one he originally set out to make. He said he thought his last-minute story shift played a crucial role in his eventual victory.
“I feel like the burden to win was on me once I decided to use this backup idea, because I knew it would take a lot of hard work to make it something that could win,” he said. “I think the work paid off.”
Danielly, who performed a comedic and dramatic monologue together, scored significantly higher in the Contrasting Monologues competition than when she performed each in the individual categories.
“I was happy to win the team category with everyone but it felt really good to win something on my own,” she said. “I thought it was funny that I performed them better together than individually though.”
Alexandra, who won second place for a monologue last year, said that she was excited to focus more on the marketing category (which she won) because it was a new challenge for her.
“I felt like I’d done the best I could with my monologue last year so I really focused on this instead,” she said.
Rotondi, who is only in her second year of competing, said that she found observing her teammates, and her competitors, was crucial in helping her secure victory.
“I was able to pick up on things people were doing well, and so I tried to use them to my advantage, and I saw people doing things that I thought weren’t that great, so those I tried to avoid,” she said. “It was my second year so watching kids with more experience was helpful.”
Feinstein, who won with the group but not individually, took an optimist’s view of the experience and said she’s ready to take what she learned at the festival and use it to improve next year.
“I was really happy to win with the whole group, I didn’t win alone but that’s okay because the whole thing is meant to be a learning experience,” she said. “Next year I’ll be better.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org