USC Aiken Continues Garcia’s Legacy of Student Mentorship

May 11, 2017

University of South Carolina Aiken theatre students mentored area high schoolers as part of the annual Garcia Theatre Project.  

During the one-day event, university students conducted theatre-related workshops.  High school drama students and enthusiasts learned myriad concepts and practices associated with the theatre, including improvisation, movement for the theatre and audition techniques. 

Additionally, high school students performed one-act plays as part of the Garcia Theatre Project. After the performances, the cast and crew receive feedback.  All high schools in Aiken County are invited to participate.  This year, four area high schools put on productions in the university’s Etherredge Center.

"The Garcia Theatre Project is vital to helping keep theatre alive in Aiken County Schools.  Through this day of celebration students, faculty and staff celebrate the art of theatre," said Jack Benjamin, chair of USC Aiken Department of Visual and Performing Arts and executive director of the Etherredge Center. 

"They celebrate each other schools accomplishments and artistry."

Ridge Spring-Monetta High School performed Baggage by Christian Kiley.  South Aiken High School did Rats! by Agatha Christie.  Midland Valley High School performed May I Have Your Attention, Please? By Catherine Rhoden-Goguen.  North Augusta High School put on Bernice Bobs Her Hair by D.D. Brooke. 

At the end of the day, awards were given to participants.  Awards included: all-star cast, best actor, best actress, best play, and runner up best play. 

The Garcia Theatre Project is a unique partnership between the RCS Corporation, the school district, and the university.  It has evolved into a collaboration from what originally was two disparate efforts.

"Without Karen and Carlos Garcia, [USC Aiken] would not be able to offer this fantastic festival," said Benjamin.

Benjamin started a one-act play festival on campus 15 years ago.  Carlos and Karen Garcia of RCS Corporation became involved in 2005, two years after their daughter, Lauren, participated in Footloose, which was the first musical produced by the Aiken community playhouse, known then as the URS Center for the Performing Arts

At the time, Lauren was just about to start high school and wanted to continue performing as part of a drama program.  But at the time, South Aiken High School didn’t have a drama program – in large part, because the State of South Carolina did not have funding for such programs.

"To give Lauren and her classmates the opportunity to perform in plays, RCS Corporation gave a $1,000 donation to Public Education Partners to use for a drama program at [South Aiken High School]," Lauren’s mother, Karen, said.

After receiving the initial gift of $500 for the SAHS drama program, PEP asked RCS if the remainder of their generous contribution could be used toward an innovative program which would allow Aiken County high schoolers the chance explore and develop their talents on stage.  The intent was to have students perform one-act plays that would be judged by performing arts professionals.  PEP helped coordinate the partnership between RCS, USC Aiken and Public School District of Aiken County.

In honor of RCS’ generosity, PEP named the resultant program The Garcia Theatre Project.  Since 2005, RCS has gifted more than $20,000 to the Garcia Theatre Project.

2017 Garcia Theatre Project

Special Awards:

Best Ensemble – North Augusta High School

Best Mean Girl –Katelynn Chason – North Augusta High School

Best Entrance – Michael Pellegrino – North Augusta High School

Overall Technical Execution – South Aiken High School – Isiah Kirkland, Magan Drake, Janaisha MCcMillan


All-Star Cast:

Latashia Lockett – Ridge Spring Monetta High School

Caroline Pethick – South Aiken High School

Reggie Vinson – Midland Valley High School

Jaxen Coleman – Midland Valley High School

Courtney Van-Eck – Ridge Spring Monetta High School

Maurice  Milton – North Augusta High School

Zach Phillips – South Aiken High School

Joel Napier – North Augusta High School


Honorable Mention Student Director:

Kiara Gamble – Midland Valley High School


Best Student Director:

Karol Stewart – South Aiken High School


Best Actor:

Collin Walters – Midland Valley High School


Best Actress:

Alice Dyches – North Augusta High School


Best Play Runner-Up:

Baggage – Ridge Spring-Monetta High School


Best Play:

Rats! – South Aiken High School 

USC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees to more than 3,500 students in 50 programs of study. USC Aiken is ranked the #1 public regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report’s guide "America’s Best Colleges." The 2017 distinction marks USC Aiken’s 19th consecutive ranking among the top three in this category and its 12th time in first place.