Mar
17

CRC’s Harms Festival presents top teen talent



Walt Shepperd 03/17/08More articles
Michael Harms wasn’t involved in school plays as a student at North Syracuse High School in the Seventies. But something sparked his interest in drama at Yale University, and in his sophomore and junior years he landed roles in “Pirates of Penzance,” “Pal Joey” and “Ah Wilderness.” His final performance as a French soldier utilized his fluency in that language. By then totally bitten by the bug, the summer after his junior year he decided to study at the HB Studio in New York and took an apartment in The Village. After only one day of classes, however, he was killed in a work-related accident with a moving company.

In 1987 Michael’s mother Beverly Harms began funding scholarships for the Cultural Resources Council’s High School Theater Festival in his memory. Two years later the festival was named for him. Founded in 1976, the festival endeavors to identify, encourage, promote and extend the talents of young people. It provides a learning experience in a professional setting, and provides career direction for young people contemplating a life of professional theater activity. Established as a showcase for the theatrical performance and technical skills of students and teachers in secondary schools, in 1999 the festival was opened to community-based teen performance groups.

Over the years the festival has drawn entrants from a 23 county area, ranging from Greece-Athena in the west, north the Indian River, east to Saratoga Springs and south to Marathon. Longest tenured of the groups competing is Nottingham High School, with continuous participation since 1978. And while no winners are designated as such, for most groups the festival’s ultimate Award of Excellence is the equivalent of a drama Super Bowl trophy.
For CRC founding director Joe Golden, the event was always the Michael Harms Theater Festival and Competition. “A festival,” Golden reflected, “because the skills of students and teachers are things to celebrate; a competition because a little rivalry can stimulate keener work.”

“What impresses me the most,” noted CRC’s Bob Dwyer, who has served as festival director for the past decade, “is the dedication shown by all the people involved, students, teachers, directors, and parents, and the expertise they show, and the respect they have for each other. It’s exciting to stand up on the stage at the Carrier Theater and sense the anticipation from the students, and the support the have for each other.”

Community theater director Dan Tursi emphasized the responsibility he felt in his role as a judge for past Harms Festivals. “You have to be honest in your criticism,” he said, “but you have to take into account their level of self-esteem. But it’s really the students learning what teamwork is all about, what putting on a total production is all about. What you realize {as a judge} is that you can take all the knowledge about theater you have gotten growing up and pass it on to the next generation.”

While not limiting a group’s choice of content or genre, the festival format requires each production to fit set up, performance and break down within a period of 35 minutes. Besides commendations in all facets of theater production, the festival awards $4,000 in scholarships, including a $1,500 prize for a graduating senior.


2008 Michael Harms Theater Festival Schedule
Saturday, March 29 – Doors open at 10 a.m.
Syracuse Children’s Theater: “Agnes of God”
West Genesee High School: “Spoon River Anthology”
La Joven Guardia del Teatro Latino: “Un senor muy viego con unas alas enormes”
Sunday, March 30 – Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
Indian River Central School: “A Midsummer Nights Dream”
The Media Unit: “Angels with Broken Wings: The Awakening”
Nottingham High School: “Speak”
Sherburne-Earlville High School: “Cards, Sure Thing and Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson”
All performances are in the Carrier Theater in the Mulroy Civic Center, 411 Montgomery St., and are free and open to the public.

Photo:
Tamara Reese and Kristina Miranovic sport the Best Costumes Award at the 2005 Michael Harms Theater Festival.





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