By: Faith Casanova, PAC Pulse Reporter
Joining the Palamino family in fall 2018, Nicolas Castanon, the lead instructor of the Dance and Drama programs at Palo Alto College had one primary goal: To be able to bring the community together to enjoy a performance while setting his students up for a successful future. Along with the help of musical director Denise Brown, the Drama program, “Teatro Palo Alto,” puts on four seasonal shows that focuses on showcasing under-represented communities and introducing the community to shows written by minority groups.
The four shows are directed towards benefiting the community by choosing plays that aims at social justice issues or that are women playwright focused. When speaking with Director Nicolas Castanon, he emphasized the importance of representation in our communities and cultures stating, “We are going to be seeing Shakespeare until the end of time, but what about the stories we aren’t seeing?”
With shows consisting of both students and alumni, the program both provides and utilizes opportunities to cast students in the music major for a show, while allowing them to experience the field of drama and dance. Their most recent play, “Nunsense” is based off a 1982 series of plays written by an infamous playwright named Dan Goggin. The play tells the story of a group of nuns trying to spread joy while they experience a tragedy, all while showing they aren’t just any ordinary group of nuns. The story was inspired by a line of greeting cards that depicted unordinary nuns and evolved into a musical comedy.
The play stars Jessica Arredondo, Ashley Flores, Lizeth Robledo, Joshua Miller, Lisa Soto, and Elizabeth Foley. In addition to putting on plays for the students and community to enjoy, Teatro Palo Alto puts an extensive amount of effort into ensuring a successful outcome for its students. Students have three different academic tracks designed to set them on a path to success. The first of these being the performance track, which allows students to focus on stage performance, second being the generalist track which is an all inclusive track for other majors such as teachers to get a broad idea of the field, and last being theater production and design, which is for technicians and designers.
Although there are numerous goals that the program hopes to accomplish in the upcoming two years, there are certain goals the program is working hard towards completing. One of these goals is to build a television studio with a green room that students will be able to use. Another one of these goals that is currently in development is launching a program titled, “Amigos de Teatro Palo Alto”, which aims towards providing scholarships to students within the program who do not qualify for financial aid.
“The faculty I had cared about my success, and I took from that, so now I want to set my own students up for success,” Castanon states. He urges students to take their time and keep an open mind when choosing a major. “It’s not a race to get out of college…it’s the time to discover what you want to study, what you enjoy & develop interests and skills.”
To learn more about “Teatro Palo Alto”, visit the drama program:
https://www.alamo.edu/pac/academics/search-programs/fine-performing-artsspeechcommunication/drama/ or visit the dance program: https://www.alamo.edu/pac/academics/searchprograms/fine-performing-artsspeech-communication/dance/