Improv competes at Fullerton

Katie Lew, Photo Editor

During practice, Cassandra Nguyen (12) helps Tyler Shaw (12) pick out a prompt for their showcase at the Fullerton Theatre High School competition. There, Westview Theatre Company placed second and third for two contests at Tech Olympics. Photo courtesy of Katherine Dahl.

Cassandra Nguyen (12) has been a part of the Westview Theatre Company since her freshman year and has participated on the improv team for all of her four years in the company.

In March 2021, she assumed the position as co-captain of the team. In her time there, she’s dipped her toes in a little bit of everything—tech work, acting, directing and improv.

The only theatre experience Nguyen hadn’t participated in yet was the Fullerton Theatre High School competition.

“It is really strange knowing that there are people who come into the company during their freshman year and jump right in–participating in productions and Fullerton competitions for all four years,” Nguyen said. “For me, it took a while to settle in because there is just so much happening in theatre and so many events so it took me a while to adjust and find where I belong.”

According to Nguyen, she felt prepared as a captain for this year’s Fullerton competition despite never having been to one because she received productive insight from her past captains.

“It’s important to know that me and my co-captain have been in theatre since our freshman year,” Nguyen said. “Every year, even if we don’t attend [Fullerton], we still prepare as if we are going. Throughout my experience on the team, I’ve learned from the people who came before us, who have gone to Fullerton, competed at Fullerton, and placed at Fullerton, what the judges expect, what to expect, and what to work on technically and in terms of stage presence.”

Fullerton Theatre High School competition is an annual event hosted by Fullerton College. Here, theatre companies from all across California compete in events ranging from monologues to full scenes. There is also musical cut, improv, tech olympics, tech designs, and more.

Unfortunately, improv was cancelled as an event this year.

However, Nguyen still participated in a few events, including a contemporary-ensemble-dramatic, 5-min-ute scene in which Nguyen and an-other member performed an excerpt from the play, “Agatha Rex,” as well as the musical theatre event where Nguyen performed the song “Money, Money, Money” with the rest of the cast for Mamma Mia.

Nguyen said that the competition felt like a unifying moment for the company, partly because most of the improv team was more intertwined with the rest of the company this year than it usually is.

“This year, the improv team is really involved with the main stage productions,” Nguyen said. “In past years, half of the improv team would be involved with other productions while the other half isn’t. But because improv is so involved with other activities, we are spending so much time together in preparation for all the events and productions, which helped us bond more.”

The competitions take place over two days. The first day consists of the initial competitions and the second day is finals.

Despite the various modifications to the competition this year, Nguyen said she feels satisfied with her experience as she finally felt like her theatrical expedition was complete after years of not having gone to the Fullerton competitions.

“Freshman year, I decided not to go,” Nguyen said. “Sophomore year, the competition was completely cancelled and junior year, the competition was modified to the point where the events I wanted to compete in were simply not possible. When I finally came to Fullerton, it felt like a nice resolution to my journey in the theatre company because it felt like I hadn’t been truly integrated into the company experience yet since I had never experienced something that everyone experiences.”

According to Nguyen, while the theatre company participates in a multitude of activities throughout the school year, Fullerton Theatre High School competition is by far the most important event the company attends.

Nguyen said that being able to share and show off the company that she feels is so special to her and the rest of the members was an incredibly memorable moment.

“I love doing theatre at the school, but it is very specific and contained to the school,” Nguyen said. “When you go to Fullerton, you are seeing teams from across California. You are seeing different acting styles, directing styles, technical styles, schools of different cultures and how it connects to yours. It feels as though you’re putting your work into something greater than just your school.”