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American Beauty shows beautifully on the North Shore

Oscar night came early for drama students at Howe Sound Secondary School last week - and was it ever sweet.

Oscar night came early for drama students at Howe Sound Secondary School last week - and was it ever sweet.

The students presented American Beauty at the North Shore Zone High School Drama Festival and took home four awards, including Outstanding Production, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and the Team Spirit Award. The Squamish team also walked off with honourable mentions for the four leading men, and honourable mention for costume, innovation, set design and outstanding director.

Brittany Dake won Best Actress for her portrayal of Mona O'Neiric, a beautiful woman who moves to New York but can't fend off the men. During the play, Dake had to be both naive and worldly. At one point Dake says "I want to be more than a trigger for hormones and endorphins" and she says she suffers from "a pollution of unwanted adulation."

"She had to carry it," said Janice Carroll the drama teacher at Howe Sound Secondary about Dake's role in the play. "She kind of had to play the straight role.

"Everyone was so happy because she worked so hard."

The Best Supporting Actress award wasn't expected. Kassie Strobel had played Ginger in the local presentations of the show, but 24 hours before the drama festival she had to be replaced. Sarah Fuller had to memorize all the lines and scenes in less than 24 hours, but still walked away with the Best Supporting Actress award.

"We just knew she was strong on stage," Carroll said.

The four male leads were recognized with honourable mentions. Peter Vartanis played Mona's jealous husband Mark, Brian Eckersley played Tom Morley, Ginger's fiancé, Kevin Bamsey played Marty Morley, a married man, and Jeevan Grewal played Chris Morley, a reverend. All three brothers fall for the beautiful Mona.

The play also starred Travis Doyle and Jocelyn Howe, who plays Yola, Marty's jilted wife.

Director Amber Hamilton was given an honourable mention for directing although she was unable to be at the festival at the Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver.

"I just thought it was almost flawless," Carroll said. "They were so big and over the top. It was very impressive."

Carroll said she was very excited for the cast and had encouraged them to go to the festival. She told them she wanted them to see they were at the same level as the North Shore schools.

"It's such a huge boost for their esteem," she said. "I think Squamish has so many talented kids."

She said people approached her to tell her the students deserved the award, and even the adjudicator was impressed.

Normally after winning the zone championship, the show would travel to a provincial competition, but this year it has been cancelled because of funding issues, Carroll said.

But there's always next year.

There are big expectations for the next time we go, Carroll said.

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