SDA students shine at state festival with first-place awards


Several members of San Dieguito Academy’s Thespian Troupe #2196 competed in the annual California State Thespian Festival, during the March 27-29 weekend. Three groups brought home first-place awards, and all involved had “an exhilarating experience,” according to junior Alex Read, part of the winning five-member dance team.

Competing in such a large-scale event — there were 1,200 talented participants — was slightly overwhelming, said Alex. But the anxiety was tempered by being able to perform with her “best friends,” she added. These friends were freshmen Jenna Steinberg, Rami Ibrahim and Stephen Read, with sophomore Thea Farber.

The dancers performed a self-choreographed tap sequence to “King of New York” from the musical “Newsies.” Despite a sound hitch during their audition that had them tapping a cappella, they won first place in the dance category.

In the musical theater arts, senior Samantha Steinberg and junior Will Fletcher performed “The Song That Goes Like This” from “Spamalot.”

Choosing the song was the hardest part, said Samantha. “So we researched comedic male/female theater duets and this one came up.”

The song is a parody that pokes fun at musical duets. “The second we heard it, we both knew we had to do it, because we’d have a great chance (of winning) with it,” added Samantha. The judges agreed, awarding Samantha and Will first place in the duet musical category, beating out 50 competing duets.

Junior Jessica Morilak joined with Samantha and Will for the group musical number, “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” competing against 10 other groups.

The piece was performed at last year’s Tony Awards and is very popular, Jessica said. Initially, finding a song written for a male and two females was not easy. But it became “ the obvious choice,” she added, despite the complexity of an arrangement with challenging harmonies and a lot of blocking.

The scene for the song required the difficult stage convention of two doors, “but we realized we could make the door out of chairs and improvised that way,” Jessica said — a winning device that helped place them first in the group musical category.

Winners were given the opportunity to perform on the main stage in front of a packed auditorium of about 1,500 people. The festival was held at Upland High School in Riverside County, attracting troupes statewide. Thespian Troupes are part of the greater California Educational Theatre Association.

Will Fletcher, Margot Leach, Maggie Lombard, Ciara Reiter, Delaney Ryan-Cast also successfully auditioned for the festival’s All State Show competing against all troupe members to perform in a variety show presented on Sunday.

Joining a Thespian Troupe involves strict membership protocols. “To be inducted into the club, you have to earn 10 thespian points for doing shows at school,” said Will. “Each point is worth 10 hours, so you must complete 100 hours of show-work to join.”

Despite the rules the Thespian Troupe is one of largest clubs on SDA’s campus and has five officers who oversee it. Samantha is vice president and said that a big draw is being able to take part in the popular Comedy Sportz and to work in shows — whether as tech support or as performers — in SDA’s Performing Arts Center.

The camaraderie and a love for theater arts is also a common denominator for Thespians, and Samantha had advice for future participants of the state festival: Work as hard as you can.

“We totally dedicated ourselves to both our trios and duet — the tap group did that as well — and it really paid off,” Samantha said, adding, “and we definitely would not be where we are without (theatre director) Mrs. Siers supporting us and pushing us to be our best.”

Coming soon to SDA’s Performing Arts Theater is the musical “Mary Poppins,” with Samantha Steinberg cast as lead. Visit and click on the theater link for show dates and ticketing.