History of the festival…
Inspired by the Lenaea Festivals of Ancient Greece, Dr. Carl Thomas, then Chair of Sacramento State College’s Department of Theatre, initiated this program in 1955. His desire was to establish an event that would support and encourage high school students with an interest in theatre. Over the ensuing 60 years, Lenaea has seen many changes and has grown tremendously into a multi-programmed event offering students the opportunity to enter into the following categories: One-Act Plays, Student Directed One-Acts, Student Written One-Acts, Musical Theatre Solos, Duo Scenes, Monologues, Set Design and Costume Design.
In 1980, graduate student Dale Wahlberg undertook the task of evaluating festival programs, procedures, and goals to determine how they could be improved. His insightful observations helped to guide the future direction of the festival. These enhancements, and most notably the opportunities to interactively “workshop” the students’ monologue, duo scene, and musical pieces immediately following their performance, have become an indispensable highlight of our program that uniquely sets us apart from other theatre arts festivals around the country.
In the early 1990’s, Professor Robert Smart became the Festival Mentor and with the help of Barbara Aimz Brown as Festival Coordinator, the Department of Theatre Arts at Sacramento State hosted forty to fifty high schools each year. As a result of their efforts, the festival added special presentations and educational workshops to its program.
In 2003, after the passing of Professor Smart, Department Chair Dr. Roberto Pomo asked Scott Adams, a local actor, theatre producer, Sac State and Lenaea alumnus, to lead the festival as its new Director. Continuing the passionate efforts of his mentors Dr. Larson and Professor Smart, Mr. Adams led the festival for the next 12 years.
In 2006, the festival added the category of Musical Theatre Solos, which has become one of the most popular and well attended events each year.
In 2013, the festival relocated to its now current host venue at The Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College.
In 2015, the festival added Set and Costume Design categories to expand educational opportunities for aspiring student designers. Hans Weichhart, actor, director, and another Sac State and Lenaea alumnus, was appointed the next Executive Director and led the festival for three years.
The Lenaea High School Theatre Festival incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2012 and has IRS determination of its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. With new roles for our existing leadership and with the addition of energized new Board members, we anticipate even more exciting things in the future.
The festival has hosted as many as 71 schools and over 2,000 high school students for the three-day event. The festival engages over 100 volunteers, including 45-50 Respondents with such backgrounds as professional working actors, regional college and university theatre professors, and local actors, directors, and producers.
By embracing the best of its traditions over the past 60 years while concurrently seeking opportunities to enhance its programs with newly recommended changes, the Lenaea Festival continues to provide participants a life-long memory of teamwork, camaraderie, networking, and an overall spirit of theatre that is rarely experienced in such a compacted period of time as these three powerful days.