Gull Lake’s Performing Arts Company presented its winter show, The Veldt, at Mid Michigan Theatre Festival (Lovefest), an annual high school theatre festival held at Garber High School in Bay City, Michigan.
Lovefest isn’t a theatre competition, although lots of the schools that are involved in Lovefest compete in MIFA (Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association), Gull Lake junior and The Veldt cast member Mackenzie Sternburgh said.
“Since it’s not a competition people are just so kind, and it’s truly the best audience you’ll ever perform in front of because they’re all theatre kids, they all know what you’re going through,” Sternburgh said.
“Nobody’s like, ‘Ooohhh I hope they screw up so that we get first place or whatever,’” Sternburgh said, “It’s not like that at all, it’s just totally fun.”
PAC members attending Lovefest watched 16 different shows performed by 14 different schools over a two day period. Each show, Sternburgh said, was 45 minutes to an hour long with a 25 minute intermission in between. During the intermission students can leave the auditorium to take care of business, or stay in the auditorium and dance between shows.
“They play a bunch of music over the speakers and lots of times there’s huge conga lines of hundreds of people just going around the auditorium,” Sternburgh said.
While Lovefest isn’t a competition, there are still awards up for grabs for members of each company.
“Each school gets three awards, two outstanding actor awards and one technical achievement award,” said Gull Lake senior and The Veldt cast member Micah Sweezie.
Sweezie and Sternburgh both received outstanding actor awards, and Sweezie also received a technical achievement award for his music composition for The Veldt.
When Sweezie received the outstanding actor award, he said he didn’t expect to get the technical achievement award on top of it–that he was shocked when his name was called.
“I don’t think a lot of the people in the company knew that I did all the music too so it just meant a lot to get that recognition and be able to say that I did it,” Sweezie said. “It meant a lot, just being a senior of lovefest, being with all the people I care about.”
Sweezie, who plays George Hadley, the father in The Veldt, said he’s been challenged as an actor in this role, especially when it comes to playing a character who is much older and more mature than he is.
“And because in acting you have to know your personal quirks and mannerisms and things like that, and then you have to eliminate them all when you play a different role,” Sweezie said. “So it’s hard to kind of do that when usually I’m playing a younger role or a more flamboyant role and now I’m the mature father figure.”
Sternburgh, who plays the mother in The Veldt, said she enjoys her role because it’s different than what she’s done before.
“I’ve always kind of played in different ways the teenager of the family,” Sternburgh said. “Usually I would be playing Wendy, who is my daughter in the how, but it’s different in this case because I feel like I’ve kind of matured as an actor and now I’m playing an older role.”
Sternburgh and Sweezie both accredit their Advanced Musical Theatre Education For the Arts (EFA) program for their improved acting over the past year.
“There’s something that we practice in our EFA, the six steps, Uta Hagen’s six steps,” Sternburgh said. “And that really just helps you to kind of develop your character, and understand what’s going on in the scene, and what will be going on in the scene so you portray your character correctly.”
Uta Hagen’s Techniques for the Actor has helped Sweezie improve as an actor as well, he said.
“I think that really helped in just being more aware and being able to identify how to become a better actor, and what it takes and what things I need to work on or focus on,” Sweezie said. “It’s greatly helped me, and I’ve applied it to every role since them.”
Sweezie said his EFA has helped him grow in confidence as an actor as well.
“I don’t know what’s changed but just now even with the small cast being up there and being one of the first actors to say anything– I’m completely calm,” Sweezie said.“I’m just myself, and it’s just a lot easier and comforting to be able to find the character I play rather than forcing myself upon them.”
Sternburgh said she hopes that throughout the rest of the competition season she will portray Lydia to the best of her ability.
“Right now I’m just trying to do the best with Lydia as I can so that maybe I’m not like ‘Ahhh, I want to redo that character completely,’ because that’s not always a good feeling,” Sternburgh said.