Senior Seminar Shines at the Willows

The theater building for the Willows Community School was filled on Sunday afternoon, June 12. The audience in the darkened house was intensely involved with the actors onstage. What most of them knew was that they were also watching the writers, the set crew, the costumers and the graphic designers. The Senior Seminar presentation of two one-act plays , Follow the Leader and The Veldt was the kind of self- propelled performance the only comes from those who are deeply dedicated to their craft.

When AVPA Theater Director Sheila Silvers took a medical leave earlier this year, the seniors in the theater seminar were told that they could not do the performance they had planned as theater-in-the-round for the Sony Black Box Theater on the CCHS campus. They carried on with their plans, and made a connection that helped to carry them through.

Susannah Funnell, the head of Visual Arts at the Willows, is also a parent of a CCHS student, and she was there to help the kids move the production over to the other side of Culver City. The private school’s theater was not being used on the dates wanted for the Senior Seminar, and so the production was re-staged for a proscenium arch, and set to go.

Emma Niles, one of the directors of the show, noted that “All of us in the Senior Seminar have faced many obstacles in putting on these two shows, (and) I am extremely proud of everyone’s work and commitment. ”

In a program designed by  Sierra Parsons, (also the leading lady of The Veldt) Kevin Mitchell offered his take on the growing pains and successes of the seminar. “First, the class agreed on plot, characters and actions, then we improvised the dialogue to find lines that worked for each character. Emma and I wrote the drafts for the class to read through, and their comments were invaluable to finishing the play.”

When the graduates of the AVPA theater program walk down the aisle this Friday to take their diplomas, they can be deeply pleased with the rough road they have walked, and all that they have learned. It’s everything that happens offstage that gives an actor the moment on the boards.

The Actors' Gang


  1. Dear Culver City Crossroads,

    The broken heart I suffered that demanded I be put on medical leave last April is on its way to healing. The valiant efforts of my senior theatre students validates that there was some greater depth and meaning to the lessons we all learned.

    The objective of the Senior Seminar class is for our students to create their own production company within the theatre department of the AVPA. Never would anyone have imagined that it be taken to the levels to which these students rose.

    The mission statement of the AVPA promises: “Inspiring and empowering students to build a compassionate and creative community through innovative and challenging arts education.”

    This pledge is what brought me to the AVPA.
    I could not have more pride in what these wonderful students accomplished. Indeed, they were challenged. Their process and production – creative and innovative. But most importantly, as decent human beings, they showed tremendous compassion.

    Our world will be in good hands as these fine students go out to create their futures. It has been an honor to be their teacher these past two years.

    Congratulations – Senior Seminar – 2011!

  2. Kudos to the student actors, directors, writers and back-stage/technical support. Kudos also to Ms. Silver for training these students so well, and to their parents for teaching them the value of hard work.

    There is one other unsung hero in the world of theater in Culver City. That person is Dolores Aguanno, the director of Deelightful Productions. Many of the students involved in the AVPA are graduates of her children’s musical theater program, which is run through the city’s department of parks and recreation.

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