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Screen Acting Achievement Awards Honors Students and Faculty

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Acting student JLynn Femiano and School of Acting instructor Karen Hirst. Photo by Bob Toy.

On May 26, Sutter Street Theatre buzzed with excitement as the Academy’s School of Acting kicked off its first annual Screen Acting Achievement Awards. The ceremony honored this spring’s graduating acting students and also paid tribute to eight young actors for their exceptional film work. Four School of Acting faculty members—Sarah Kliban, Clark Houston Lewis, Wes Sneeringer and Boris Zubov—were also honored for their contributions to the students and the department. 

The event capped off a film festival held in the theatre earlier that week. The festival included several screenings of the many diverse movie scenes created throughout the year that gave all Academy acting students a chance to showcase skills. 

Multi-talented Academy acting alumni Larry Dorsey Jr. served as emcee for the awards ceremony. He kept the show moving along at a perfect pace while entertaining the audience with his witty repartee and rapping skills. The evening’s festivities also included a special performance from 2017 acting graduate India Jarvis, star of the recent wildly popular production of Legally Blonde. Her moving rendition of the song of the same name brought down the house. Watching a screening of the talented ensemble cast of Mike Benson, Creed Burns, Robert Cherry, Luis Fierros, Daniel K. Gonzalez, Michael Norman and Wiggy Torres perform a great rendition of a classic scene from the movie Reservoir Dogs was another highlight of the night.

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Acting student Jeffrey Norris. Photo by Bob Toy.

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India Jarvis performed a song from “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” the School of Acting’s Spring 2017 production. Photo by Bob Toy.

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School of Acting Executive Director Diane Baker. Photo by Bob Toy.

“This is our first annual Screen Acting Achievement Awards and I just want you to know that the films you’ve seen over the last couple of days were only part of the massive amount of wonderful work that went on in Academy classes over the last year,” said Diane Baker, executive director of Academy of Art University’s School of Acting, when it was time to start handing out awards. “I think everyone in these scenes is a winner. But there are some people who seem to stand out. We feel the need, the wish, the desire to let them know how much we appreciate what they put into their work and the school; and how much they care about each other and respond to our teachers.”

School of Acting instructor Karen Hirst gave the awards to the four female actors being honored for their exceptional work: JLynn Femiano (Monster and Reservation Road), Adianez Crespo (Volver), Sheilla Cuaderno (Crazy, Stupid, Love), and Amanda Casarella (Night, Mother).The audience also got to see each of these gifted women in action in their winning movie scenes.

“It’s a privilege to be able to give out these awards tonight,” said Hirst. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with all of these young actresses over the years and I wish them nothing but the best. This is just the beginning of their journey.”

“I’m shy,” joked a humble Femiano, who delivered two powerful performances and was the first actor to join Hirst on stage. “Seriously, this is such an honor. Thank you so much.”

School of Acting Associate Director Damon Sperber then called the four male acting honorees to the stage to receive their awards. They included Jeffrey Norris (Shame), Michael Perez (The Social Network), Gopi Savinay (Gone Girl) and Justin Wheeler (The Green Mile).

“These fine young men have become leading men in their own right,” said Sperber, after the audience watched each of their impressive film scenes. “It’s been fun to see their journey—you’ve all come a long way. You learn from watching your peers on screen. That’s why we wanted to show all of your film work this week—so you can keep getting better and keep moving forward.”

At the end of the evening, all of the spring School of Acting graduates were called to the stage to be recognized for their accomplishment. The audience sent them off into the world with a round of applause as they begin the next phase of their journey as actors.

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Acting student Justin Wheeler. Photo by Bob Toy.