Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Actors Take to the Stage for Drama Competition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Actors Take to the Stage for Drama Competition

Article excerpt

Aria McKenna was reciting lines from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night when she stopped, flashed an embarrassed smile and looked at the judges.

"I'm sorry, I just completely blanked out. I'm just too nervous," she said.

One of the judges gently urged her to continue. She had six minutes left, after all.

McKenna then started over and, improvising, threw her heart into the two short performances, a credit to her determination and acting ability.

"I didn't feel I'd done the parts justice," she said later.

Still, the important thing was that the judges did.

McKenna, 27, was one of about 15 young actors, ages 18 to 30, who competed Saturday in the Jacksonville Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters drama competition. She was named one of the top three winners.

Joining her were Adonis Boyd, 22, and Joel Martinez, 20. The winner will be announced at a luncheon March 20, said the society's drama chairman, Carol Lanier.

"I thought everybody was fabulous," Lanier said after the performances. "I was amazed at the caliber of the acting."

Perhaps even more amazing was the pressure the actors endured. Each stood alone on a small stage inside the Times-Union's Riverside Avenue building with just a chair.

They each did two short performances using parts from their choices of plays. Most chose one role written by Shakespeare. Other playwrights represented included Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, Anton Chekov and Moliere.

Actually feeling like you've become the character is the goal for the actors.

"Sometimes you go completely unconscious on stage," Martinez said. "You're so involved in the performance, in the character, that when it's over it's like you wake up from a dream. You know you've done great."

But, like the risk of injury for football players, those moments of "blanking out" are hazards of the acting business, the young actors said.

"Then there are the times when you get up there and say, `I'm going to perform, uh, uh . …

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