Campus theater department supports new faces

Jessica Mangili

Being the new kid on the block is never easy and joining a community that has its own norms and familiar faces can be a nerve-wracking experience.

To help ease the transition into the department, Sacramento State’s theater and dance faculty puts on New Faces at the start of each school year to give both incoming freshmen and transfer students a chance to introduce themselves and showcase a little of what they can do.

This year’s presentation was held on Sept. 18 in the Playwright’s Theatre in Shasta Hall.

The showcase gave each participant an allotted few minutes to tell an audience of peers and professors their interests and experience with the arts and where they are from, as well as giving them the option to perform a brief monologue, dance piece or musical number.

“I was really nervous because I saw a lot of people from my classes,” said senior theater major Janice Thao, 24. “I saw professors I had last semester who have never seen me act before.”

Thao, a transfer student, performed a monologue from “China Doll” she has been working on since last semester, and though she was initially unsure of how she felt about her performance, overall she enjoyed having the opportunity to be involved with the department.

“I’m looking forward to my senior year, so I thought I’d give it a shot and challenge myself a little,” Thao said. “I’m glad I did it.”

The nervous energy before the showcase was apparent in the department’s common room, better known as The Green Room. Students were seen rushing to prepare—some were practicing song lyrics to themselves in hushed tones, girls were asking each other if they could borrow makeup and others were cracking jokes to alleviate pre-show jitters.

For some students, standing in front of an audience was a completely new element to find themselves in.

“It’s interesting because I’m usually working backstage, so I’m not used to being onstage,” said child development major Kessy Paulson, 22, who just transferred and plans to minor in theater.

The apprehension was a mutual feeling among the student participants.

“I was pretty nervous,” said communications major Charlie Pham, 19.

Pham is considering minoring in theater and spent his time at New Faces introducing himself to his potential peers. He said getting up and speaking in front of an audience is something he usually stays away from.

“Looking at all the performances, we have all these talented people here,” Pham said. “It felt good to get [introducing myself] off my chest.”

For some of the more seasoned theatre students, watching the new students perform was a beneficial and nostalgic experience in itself.

“It reminded me of my first time [at New Faces],” said senior theater major Ashlee Woods, 23. “Seeing everybody perform was really great. I’m glad they came out and did what they did, even if they were nervous—half the people in this world can’t get up and do what they did. It’s not easy.”

The crowd had a supportive air to it, with students cheering loudly after every newcomer went and joking about how they are now the “old faces.”

“I felt proud to be part of Sac State because of all the talent we have here,” said economics major Raksha Singh, 19, who attended New Faces with a group of friends. “I’m a dancer too, so I got really emotional during one of the dance pieces. I know what that feeling is [when you perform].”

Seeing the support from the department eased the nerves the students had.

“At first, when the person before me went, my heart was pounding,” said freshman theater major Lindsay Ashton, 18. “But it was a lot of fun knowing everyone was so welcoming. I cannot wait to learn from the professors and the other students here.”

New Faces allowed the students to feel better about being new to the department.

“After seeing how involved and supportive everyone was, it felt right,” said freshman theater major Alexia Bayardo, 18.

Bayardo performed a monologue that had the audience smiling throughout her performance, and she appreciated the encouraging environment.

“Getting support from all of the veterans, it was the best feeling,” Bayardo said.