Tag Archives: acting

Students learn self-confidence in Stage Combat

By Mark Haiko and Soren Ryan-Jensen

Staff Writers

From fighting ghosts to dueling with longswords, Stage Combat is an Expeditions class that delves into the art of fighting on stage. In the class, students design skits to play out for different projects.

Stage Combat teacher Keith Brown said finding new ways of expressing yourself and experimenting are the backbone of this class.


Stage Combat students practice a fight scene skit. PHOTO CREDIT: Soren Ryan-Jensen

“I learned a lot about Shakespeare and staged choreography, and I do a lot of, like, productions,” Denali sophomore Kyle Kobetsky said. This class focuses on building basic acting techniques and getting used to performing on a stage.

“It’s a resume builder — knowing stage combat is a way that is something that not everyone learns and it’s a way to make yourself stand out,” Mr. Brown said. He believes performing more roles gives students more flexibility and makes it easier to get a career in theater.

See below for a video about the Stage Combat course:

Featured image (at the top of this post): Students practice their longsword skills. PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

Modern Acting and Theatre teaches the profession of acting

By Joshua Rivera

Staff Writer

Modern Acting and Theatre is a different experience compared to the introductory drama course. The advanced course teaches students the techniques and emotions of acting: it’s a college-level course meant to prepare students for the acting world. Ran by the production company Estronemicas, the drama course is a chance for aspiring actors to show the experience they have.

Ron Johnson, a professional actor and teacher of the advanced drama course said, “I wanted to do a theatre class with a twist, because Expeditions is supposed to be about giving students experiences that they’d get should they chose to move into a profession, but without having to actually, definitely make the choice.”

Tahoma senior Sydney Martinez, who has been with the course for four years, said, “We learned how to make our own acting resume and be able to find ways to make a career out of the things we learned in the class. Over time that stuff grows and becomes more complex.”

See below for a video about the Modern Acting and Theatre course:

Featured image (at the top of this post): The Modern Acting and Theatre class rehearses for their end-of-year performance. PHOTO CREDIT: Joshua Rivera

Tahoma Modern Acting and Theatre Showcase will be on May 23

By Joshua Rivera

Staff Writer

The Modern Acting and Theatre class has been a part of Tahoma for six years, teaching rising actors the techniques needed for a career. Every year there is a show displaying the students’ potential, and the sixth annual showcase will be on May 23.

The Modern Acting showcase will be held at 7:15 p.m. on May 23 in the X-1 lecture hall on the Oak Grove campus. It will be led by Ron Johnson, the artistic director, and Estrella Esparza-Johnson, the executive artistic producer. The show is intended for mature audiences age 14 and over and includes mature topics.

This shows makes earning a start in an acting career easier. The showcase is the chance for students to exhibit the experience they have obtained in their drama Expeditions course and to show their potential. The performance is free and will start immediately after the Celebration of Learning.

For more information on the event, see this press release. Please contact 831-623-5280 or eej@estronemicas.com for any questions about the performance.

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Seniors MJ Garza and Sydney Martinez are the assistant directors for the May 23 showcase. PHOTO CREDIT: Arnold Pravong

Intro to Drama teaches students acting and theater techniques

By Abel Rangel and Justin San Giovanni

Staff Writers

Intro to Drama is a fun and active Expeditions course full of acting, reading scripts, rehearsing plays and performing. Intro to Drama is taught by Estrella Esparza-Johnson, along with two assistant teachers, who go by Mr. E. and Mr. Jay.

Mr. E. explained that Intro to Drama is “a whole ranging field mostly having to do with theater but also melodramatic arts, the dramatic structure and also a lot of writing. So it encompasses theater but also the narrative and literary aspects of this class.” Students will work on and rehearse public speaking, memorizing scripts, putting emotion into their acting, writing and building a narrative. Students also practice and learn stage directions, dramatic techniques and the overall process of putting on a play.

Rainier freshman Nathanial Lopez said, “We’ve learned about parts of drama like articulation is one – when you’re doing a play and making your voice be really loud and having it be heard. We learned stage directions and drama techniques.”

Public speaking or just having to perform is obviously a major part of drama because students have to speak in the performances to a large audience. As Lopez explained, Intro to Drama helps people with speaking out to a large group of people and with putting a better emphasis, clearer pronunciation and better articulation in their voices.

See below for a video about the Intro to Drama course:

Featured image (at the top of this post): Rainier freshmen Gabbie Lopez, Melody Puldio, Fallon Bayer and Wilson Chung stand in a half circle rehearsing their play. PHOTO CREDIT: Justin San Giovanni


Theater instructor shares his experiences in the industry

By Jeana Rose Meneses

Staff Writer

Ron Johnson Jr., better known as Mr. Jay to the students at Summit Rainier, is the instructor for the Modern Acting and Theater Expeditions course. In addition to his work with the Expeditions team, he is also a professional actor and has been in a number of films and segments such as Funny or Die. He is also a rapper, and you can find his original songs on websites like Spotify and Sound Cloud under his name. While he is at Summit Rainier, he is always trying to inspire his students to believe in themselves, whether they pursue an acting career or not.

1. Since you are an actor, at what age did you know that you wanted to be an actor, and was it a big “aha” moment?

“Well, to me it wasn’t so much as being an actor as it was being an overall performer,” Mr. Jay said. “I wanted to be a professional performer, meaning I sing, I dance, I rap, I act. I just want to be doing that for the rest of my life and I’ve known that since I was about 4 or 5 years old.”

2. Were your parents in the acting business as well?

“My mother was a singer, and my father used to play an instrument, but that’s as far as they went,” Mr. Jay stated. “They didn’t really know how to help me or start me off because they didn’t really take the path themselves.”

3. Can you describe your current status right now?

“My current status right now is that I’m auditioning for pilot seasons for television shows and I have my own production company with my wife,” Mr. Jay said. “I’m also a screen actors guild franchise producer, so I can make my own movies if I want.”

4. What’s something that stands out to you in a script?

“Something that stands out to me in a script is when characters are written for specific purposes but they have room to grow,” Mr. Jay explained.  

5. Have you ever had that one character that you just had to play?


Summit Expeditions Modern Acting and Theater Instructor Ron Johnson Jr.

“I can’t say that I’ve actually played one of those yet, but I can say that my dream is to be a detective on Law and Order,” Mr. Jay said smiling. “I think I could kill that.”

6. On the opposite side of things, what is something that stands out negatively in a script that makes you not even want to interview?

“What stands out negatively to me in a script are false images of groups of people. Stereotypes. They bug me,” Mr. Jay explained. “For example, if we were going to watch Law and Order, 9 times out of 10, the person they’re going to bring in for drugs, rape, abuse, murder is somebody black that looks like they’re from the hood. When we know for a fact in real life the highest murder rates come from white neighborhoods. To use people of color, to stereotype them, to serve your purposes in a story, that kind of bugs me.”

7. When you are going to an audition, what goes through your head?

“What goes through my head is making sure that I’m not overdoing it, you know? A lot of actors, when they start out, they feel like they have to stand out or they have to be different from everyone else. When in reality, if you just do it the way you internally feel about it, that is when you have the most success,” Mr. Jay elaborated.

8. What is going through your head after the audition?

“The first thing I do after I do an audition is that I take the script that I used to audition with and I just throw it out,” Mr. Jay exclaimed. “As actors, we are our own harshest critics, and so we always feel like we can do something better, and so when we think about the same things over and over again, we leave no space for new things, and it’ll drive us crazy if we do not get rid of it. Out of sight, out of mind, and, if I do get picked for the job, then it is like a pleasant surprise.”

9. After getting a role, what goes through your mind?

“Well, you know it’s always excitement. But then it immediately turns to OK, I’m happy about this, but this is still a job and I have to do it the right way. So if I get a role I immediately start doing research,” Mr. Jay said.

10. What has been the hardest part about your acting career?

“The hardest part about an acting career is momentum, you know? It’s cycles of building up momentum and then dealing with rejection,” Mr. Jay explained. “You have to be really patient, and you have to go on a lot of auditions. It’s hard not to take it personally, you know what I mean? It will eventually happen it is just all about frequency.”

11. How have you overcome that yourself?

“I try to keep myself remembering why I love to do it in the first place and part of that is teaching,” Mr. Jay said. “When I go out there to Hollywood by myself, it’s very lonely, but the thought of me getting to bring what I’ve learned back to my students keeps me in a mood where I’m happy enough to keep moving on.”

12. Since you write your own songs, what is the motivation behind them?

“I try to rap about awareness, knowing your rights, being a good person, not letting people dictate who you are, themes about injustice and sometimes I get political,” Mr. Jay said. “I just rap about the things I think people should hear.”

13. Does your knowledge on the behind-the-scenes affect how you see movies and other things?

“Before I got involved in the industry I would watch the movie and leave. Now that I know how hard these people work, I stay until the end of the movie and I watch all the credits. Every last name,” Mr. Jay reflected.

14. Do you have any noteworthy stories about the industry?

“I had been in an audition waiting room and was told to wait outside the door. As I was waiting outside the door, the door was cracked open and I heard the casting directors. The director [was] talking about all the people they have seen in an audition and they seemed upset. Every actor they had seen today had apologized for something,” Mr. Jay explained. “These three people were actually making bets, putting money in a pot, about how many people would apologize to them in a day. So that’s what I teach my students. I teach my students to be confident.”

15. Why did you become a drama teacher?

“I don’t really consider myself a teacher. What I consider myself as is an instructor who teaches vocational training. I don’t teach the history of drama; I teach you how to use it to become a professional,” Mr. Jay said.

16. What is the message that you want to give your students?

“The message that I do give my students above all else is about being your own person and making strong choices and dealing with those consequences,” Mr. Jay said. “I truly believe that learning the process of acting and learning how to be a performer can help you be a better person, no matter what profession you go into.”

17. Is there anything else you would like to share?

“Come see our show at the end of the year!” Mr. Jay said.


Losing the arts means losing education

By C.M. Bateman and Kaitlyn Tran

Staff Writers

Recently, schools across the country have been cutting art programs.

This affects the students by not allowing them to express themselves, and it makes it more difficult for the students to master their core subjects. Without the arts, dropout rates can increase.

Schools in the United States have been shifting their attention to Common Core and away from the arts. However, the arts are very beneficial toward the development of the next generation of children as they grow up.

Estrella Esparza-Johnson, an actress who teaches Introduction to Drama and Advanced Acting for the Expeditions team at Summit Public Schools, said, “I started to see that drama and the skills that it develops are good for intrapersonal communication, development of language and vocabulary, confidence, public speaking, media literacy, critical analysis, critical thinking, and just, a place for kids to be creative.”

A report by the Arts Education Partnership shows that students exposed to drama, music and dance are more skilled in reading, writing and math.

The arts give students a way to express themselves in school, and this could develop new ideas.

Performing arts help children gain self-reliance as well as collaboration with others in order to reach a goal.

They can learn that there are many different ways to develop a skill.

Studies have shown that students who do performing arts get higher scores on their academic quizzes and tests.

A report by the Rand Corporation says that students who do performing arts are also likely to “connect with people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing.”


A drama teacher defends her craft

Students advocate for acting classes

A drama teacher defends her craft

By C.M. Bateman and Kaitlyn Tran

Staff Writers

Estrella Esparza-Johnson teaches an advanced course in Modern Acting and an Introduction to Dramatic Arts course for the Expeditions team at Summit Public Schools.


Estrella Esparza-Johnson teaches acting courses for Summit’s Expeditions team.

  1. How long have you been a teacher of the arts?

“I was working with kids … And I also had to co-direct a full stage show, about a hundred kids,” Ms. Esparza-Johnson said. “I found out that you could not only have a production of kids, but teach them the basics of drama.”

  1. What inspired you to pursue the arts?

“I was born into it. It was always something that was, I saw every day, and I saw it as a legitimate profession, something that people do with their lives. I can’t honestly tell you whether it was nature or nurture. This is how I enjoyed expressing myself. I feel the most at home, most expressed, most comfortable in this realm.”

  1. What inspired you to become a teacher of the arts?

“Our kids really need it … I started to see that drama and the skills that it develops are good for intrapersonal communication, development of language and vocabulary, confidence, public speaking, media literacy, critical analysis, critical thinking, and just, a place for kids to be creative, that, at that time, this was back in, I wanna say, 2000 like 4 or 5 and 6, there was the No Child Left Behind thing so kids were just being taught to test, test, test, test, and having very few experiences where they got to explore more parts of being human.

I saw my ability to come in as a teaching artist with drama to help them enhance their skills, especially students who were immigrant students, learning English – the drama was a way to bridge their home understanding and where they were coming from and give them a means to express themselves and make a level playing field to students who adapted the language, where they could contribute.

What I seek to do in my work is to help develop human beings through drama, through the dramatic arts, and in turn helping them be whatever they’re meant to be. I firmly believe that their lives are enhanced by drama and not to mention that they become more sophisticated viewers of my profession.”

  1. What do you think is the importance of art programs in schools?

“There’s been this artificial wall built between science and math and then the arts. Science and math have been seen as incredibly important, which they are, and you know, I encourage people to explore those fields of human study. But you have whole generations of people who have been brought up to believe that the arts are less, not as important than science and math, when the reality is, if you study science and math at the college level and the arts, what you find is that they’re so much the same. We’re all adept at exploring the unknown. We’re comfortable in not knowing, in experimentation, observation, theorizing, critically analyzing things, innovating, challenging boundaries, looking at things from alternate perspectives.

So I think that all human beings need to be exposed to those modes of behaving and thinking and practicing, because in a scientific laboratory, you know, you follow the scientific method. You theorize, you observe, you experiment, you reflect, you go back, and eventually you come up with empirical evidence. You do the same, or a very similar process when it comes to improvisation, or playwriting, or developing a scene, or developing a monologue, learning how to develop the voice.

There are elements of when I’m teaching voice – I’m talking about aspects of the anatomy, of physiology, neuroscience – helps to make better actors. But my students have to understand both realms in order for that to work, so it’s just, I think, important for all humans to learn, or be exposed in a general way, to all fields of human endeavor in a balanced way, because it doesn’t matter how people get intelligence, knowledge, or wisdom, it just matters that they do. Whatever means that you can use, whatever avenue helps people to get it- that’s why arts are important, because they’ve been excluded.”

  1. In your experience, what do students take from these programs?

“When you study something, say economics, part of economics study is the study of game theory, which is, you know, setting up games. Here’s a set of circumstances, here’s an objective, work within it to accomplish the objective. That’s exactly what we do in drama.

You learn those skills of problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, experimentation, creativity, and creativity I could define as the ability to respond creatively to any given set of circumstances. Response ability in the sense that you develop the ability to respond vs react to a set of circumstances, to identify what certain circumstances are; so, in other words, to work backwards. For instance, in drama, what I’ve noticed a lot in terms of academic scholastic skill is that many people will come into my classes who are identified as limited or poor readers, you know, not very adept at reading or comprehension, or even at limited English skills, and what I find is that because dramatic literature is so accessible because it’s about the human experience, that somehow, that transcends any difficulty students are having with language, or they just stretch themselves, or it gives them more means to understand because it gives them more emotion and human experience are involved. Therefore, then, by the end of my class, people are usually reading at a more sophisticated level, their vocabularies have increased and their comprehension  and their expression, therefore their ability to use language, their mechanics have improved their grammar has improved, their reading level is higher. So if I were to give them like a Lexile level for what they were reading when they started my class to what they were reading at the end, it’s anecdotal, but I think that if I were access it, there would be a dramatic difference.”

  1. What value do you see in art programs in an education system?

“I had a theater professor, a drama professor who cited the neurological reality that if the brain, when asleep, and it is regenerating, if it does not have rapid eye movement, dream sleep, the brain loses its ability for cognition, its ability to be sane and to function. Therefore, this professor, Michael Fields, extrapolated that we as artists are the dreamers of society. If we stop dreaming, thinking the thoughts and doing the expressions that we do, then society itself will lose itself. It will not be whole, it will not be healthy, it will not be sane. And so, the importance of art programs is that your society is only as good as all of your people. And, we need cutting edge, brilliant scientists, engineers, mathematicians, doctors, accountants, lawyers, whatever, but we brilliant artists- visual artists, musicians, dramatists, dancers- we need people to be able to push the limits of what it means to be human and what it means to be expressive of the human condition.

It’s not like the arts are frivolous. Some of the greatest thinkers in the world have also, not just dabbled, but deeply explored the arts. Albert Einstein was a virtuoso on the streets. I don’t think physics suffered because he was a musician. I don’t think musicians have suffered because he was a scientist. I think it enhanced his brain and his cognitive ability and his influence and his life experience.

I would argue every subject in a school is important. It’s only that when you try and say one is more important than the other that I will be the first one to stand up and say ‘Uh, excuse me, the arts are extremely important.’ So as long as it’s a fair playing field, everything is good, but they are just as important as math and science and engineering and history and language and anthropology and I could name many, many, many more.”


Losing the arts means losing education

Students advocate for acting classes

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