Thursday, March 28, 2013

FURTHER INFORMATION:            STACY ARMSTRONG (626) 857-4082, PAULA GREEN (626) 914-8873

Citrus College Theatre Arts Production Earns National Honor
by Stacy Armstrong

The Bronze Star, A Citrus College Theatre Arts production recently made history when it earned top honors from the Kennedy Center‘s American College Theatre Festival.

For the first time, a Citrus College play has received a “Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble Award” from the national theater program.  Only eight colleges and universities in the United States were selected for this honor, and of those, only two were produced by community colleges.

“This award is based on the overall look of the show,” explained Cherie Brown, Citrus College theatre arts instructor.  “It does not single out one specific aspect of the production, but is all inclusive.  The award highlights both the acting and the design.”

Based on the true story of a gay soldier looking for acceptance after being traumatized by war and rejected by his family, The Bronze Star is the result of a collaboration between three Citrus College departments:  Theater Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Veteran’s Center.

The concept for the play dates back to 2004, when Citrus College History Instructor Bruce Solheim decided to write a novel about his friend Carl who had recently passed away. 

“I began writing the novel, but nothing seemed to work.  Finally, I hit on the idea of a theatrical play and contacted Cherie Brown in 2010,” Solheim said.  “Cherie liked the idea and put me in contact with Neil Weiss, a Citrus College adjunct theatre arts instructor.  Together, we crafted the story into a play.”

Part of the writing process included two readings of the play in a workshop format and then a staged reading at the Citrus College Haugh Performing Arts Center.  The full production debuted in November 2012.  In addition, a scene was also performed during the opening reception of the California Community College Veterans Summit in December 2012.

Citrus College entered The Bronze Star into the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival as a “Participating Production.”  By doing this, the production was made eligible for participation in the regional festival, which was held at the Los Angeles Theater Center in downtown Los Angeles last month.

“The national committee views each production showcased at the festival,” Brown said.  “It is during this time that they decide what awards, if any, each show deserves.”

In addition to the “Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble Award,” the 72 students who comprise the cast and crew of The Bronze Star also received “The Golden Wrench” award for their efficient set up and tear down of the production.

Dr. Geraldine M. Perri, superintendent/president of Citrus College, believes that The Bronze Star has been successful on many levels.

“To achieve such acclaim with an original script is phenomenal,” she said.  “This is a wonderful example of what can happen when several college departments join forces to accomplish a goal.  At the same time, it has provided our students with the opportunity to become extremely involved in the creative process and to explore the intricacies of theatre arts.” 

Mrs. Susan M. Keith, president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, agrees.

 “The entire college community is proud of what the cast and crew has accomplished,” she said.

In the future, Brown, Weiss, and Solheim hope to produce the show independently.  In addition, they are currently writing a screenplay version of the play.

Whatever the future holds for The Bronze Star, Solheim says he is just happy that the story is being told.

“Carl’s experiences were too important to let fade away,” he said.  “This piece teaches us a valuable lesson about tolerance and the struggles our veterans go through when they return home.”


FURTHER INFORMATION:            STACY ARMSTRONG (626) 857-4082, PAULA GREEN (626) 914-8873