Java Gala Splashs Art, Performances All Over Campus for Unique Year End Celebration

The annual Java Gala – the end-of-year finale and fundraiser for the Culver City High School Academy of Visual and Performing Arts stretched out into a whole new shape for the 2024 iteration; a “choose you own adventure” that covered much of the high school campus and all of the different arts taught and practiced at the academy. 

“We wanted to create something new and fresh for Java this year and came up with an afternoon show instead of an evening show,” said AVPA Executive Director & Creative Director of Music Dr. Tony Spano. “We also had done a show before Frost was renovated that had performances throughout the entire building. Then, we came up with the concept of an ‘open house’-type format with each school performing and exhibiting around the campus.”

A bit of history; dating back to the 1996-1997 school year when AVPA was established, AVPA held two productions called Java Drama in a coffeehouse atmosphere. These shows were an opportunity for AVPA students to showcase their art, music, film, and drama in an intimate setting, offering the audience up-close views and interaction with the artists.

The first Java Dramas were held at the Ivy Substation, the current home of The Actors’ Gang. After 13 Java Drama productions (there were two the first school year), AVPA moved to the Kirk Douglas Theatre to allow for larger audiences. The show had to be reduced from four nights to one night, so Java Drama became a fundraising event, and Java Gala was born. This year’s Java Gala opened up a new format, offering more opportunities to showcase the art, and more spaxe for audiences to enjoy it. 

Under the guidance of AVPA Artistic Director and Creative Director of Dance Carol Zee, AVPA students took the lead organizing the ideas, activities.

Starting off with a walk through the Visual Arts classroom, where a year’s worth of sketches, paintings, and  small sculptures were on display, there was a stroll through the campus to the outdoor performance space for brief pieces by the One Body Dance Company, an the Improv Troupe.

At the Kurokawa Garden, a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was serving finger sandwiches, cookies and of course, tea for the taking while a Chamber Quintet played beautifully. 

Arriving back at the Frost auditorium for the ‘second act’ of the Gala, there was a performance by full orchestra of Ravel’s “Bolero,” conducted by AVPA Co-Director Dr. Tony Spano. Film Department head Holly Gable’s amazing cinema students screened their comic short films, showing off a lot of technique and some very funny screenwriting. The Blurred Vision Theater presented an ultra-brief bit of Shakespeare, tossing around chairs to create the stage for “Merry Wives of Windsor, ”  and the actors presented a special short medley of songs from the musical “Cabaret.” 

The Culver Arts Foundation’s leaders Jim Clarke and Alicia Ide presented four scholarships for graduating seniors; the  CAF Louise Coffey-Webb Scholarship for $2,500 went to Ayla Moses, and the CAF Arts Scholarship $2,500 was awarded to Lux Amaya. In addition, CAF Special Recognition Scholarships of $1,500 each went to  Haifa Maung and Benjamin Scully.

A Sony Pictures Entertainment scholarship was awarded to Benjamin Coburn, and a Community Recognition Award went to the outgoing President of the AVPA Board, Laura McMullen.

Amy Martin and Eran Marcus were honored for their long time volunteer participation as the parents of three CCHS students who have all been part of the AVPA program; Martin for her musicianship, and Marcus for his webmaster skills. 

“This Java Gala is like no other production AVPA has done in our 28-year history,” added Dr. Spano. “While Java is a fundraising event, it’s also a showcase of what our students have planned and created to share their talents with friends, family members, and community supporters.”

Judith Martin-Straw

Photo Credit –  Andrew Reilman

Julia Marcus, violin
Vivian Menthe, violin
Peyton Lin, violin
Juliet Ashley, viola
Naoki Ono-Lemire, cello


The Actors' Gang