While over 1,100 students applied and nearly 200 competed in the Kennedy Center’s American Collegiate Theater Festival, it was the team of 11 LaGuardia students who took the stage as the underdogs, and surprised the competition when three out of five of their acting pairs reached the semi-finals.
LaGuardia was one of only two colleges with more than two students in the semi-finals round of the five-day acting competition.
Their accomplishment was an underlying victory for the students from the small community college in Long Island City, as their performance surprised all of those in attendance.
John Consentino, one of the students that made it to the semis, was mostly excited to hear the audience’s reaction to their performance.
“Everyone would see us in the hall and say, ‘You guys are amazing. What school do you go to and who is your professor?’ It made me proud to represent LaGuardia,” Consentino said.
Held at Cape Cod Community College, the festival hosted three different competitions; the Irene Ryan Acting Competition (where three students and their scene partners made it the semi-finals), the Musical Theater Initiative Competition and The Design, Technology and Management Award where one of the students took second place.
Although victory is sweet, the journey to this win was not sweet or easy as they made it look. It required many hours of hard practice, tense nerves and competition.
The LaGuardia students spent five days every week in rehearsal for their performance and worked non-stop.
Stefanie Sertich, the team’s theater professor and training coach, was equally impressed at their integrity.
“They have the passion, the heart, the soul of an actor,” Sertich said. “I gave them the tools, the pathway, but they were the ones who really stepped it up. They dedicated themselves to it; they committed themselves”.
Committed themselves indeed. In fact, during the Design, Technology and Management Competition, runner-up Patrick Surillo said that a professor told him the two judges wanted him to know that they wished their students had as much passion.
The win proved that sometimes, it doesn't take an expensive, big-named, college to produce passionate students.
It not only brought positive publicity to the youth and education of Queens, but it also encouraged the students to reach their goals.
Consentino was one of the students very personally affected by the experience and is now convinced he will pursue a degree and career in theater.
“I loved the experience,” Consentino said. “It is something that will stay with me forever. I am already looking forward to next year. I am definitely going to go for it.”