Malibu High students ready to showcase talents in Masque

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The student-run talent show, in its ninth year, opens this week and will feature jazz, magic and comedy.

By Mollie Vandor/Special to The Malibu Times

This week, the Malibu High School auditorium will be home to one of the MHS community’s most anticipated events-Masque.

The annual student-run talent show began in 1995 with MHS’ first junior class and has become a venerated MHS tradition. This year, the show opens Thursday at 7 p.m. and runs through March 13.

“Masque is a place for the most talented people in the school to show their stuff, and people expect the quality of the acts to be really high,” Junior Jenny Hardy said. Because of this expectation, aspiring Masque acts must go through an arduous audition process that emphasizes “being talented and having the right attitude and drive as well as serious commitment,” said Junior Jason Kho, a member of the student committee in charge of Masque. Faculty Advisor Ruben Scott said, “One hundred twenty to 130 people auditioned and there are about 60 or 70 people involved in the show. We have to look at time and flow as well as quality, so it is important to have auditions.”

Despite some students who wish that Masque were open to more would-be participants, most Masque attendees, such as Sarah Haft, feel the audition process pays off. “The acts are really good, especially the bands,” said Haft, who attended MHS from 1999-2003. “You would expect that since this is a school they would be amateurish, but the show always has some pretty amazing performers with talent that exceeds high school standards.” Indeed, bands such as P.I.M.P. and Simon Dawes, which have gained relative notoriety on the local club circuit, have members who have played in past Masque performances.

Masque’s reputation as a showcase for musicians has resulted in the show’s increasing “emphasis on music and bands,” Haft said.

“At Malibu High School it seems like everyone has a rock band so there are a lot of those in Masque this year,” Scott explained. “And we have some dancers, an incredible jazz singer, an excellent magician and some comedy.”

Although it contains few middle school acts, Masque is still billed as a show for the entire school. This has resulted in some friction over school-sponsored censorship of Masque acts. In past years, school administrators have clashed with students over ostensibly objectionable content in the student-produced Masque acts.

MHS Principal Mike Matthews said, “The controversies in recent years have occurred when a student does something onstage that was not pre-approved, or that was disallowed.”

“The school is very sensitive to being appropriate and this is a chance to show that,” said Scott, who is in his first-year as faculty advisor for the show. “I try to allow as much freedom of expression as I can and I don’t like the idea of censorship, but I don’t want to offend people and I have to make sure Masque is responsibly produced.”

Students have always balked at Masque censorship. And, in 2001, after a group of students were harshly rebuked for a joke involving an actor comically choking a rubber chicken, they began seriously discussing an independent talent show that would be free from the confines of school censorship. Although the idea never got further than a student-circulated petition, the divisive censorship issue continues to be a part of Masque. “We’re just letting loose and doing our thing and my band doesn’t have any explicit lyrics or anything, but I bet some conservatives would brand our music as ‘disturbing’ and I hope that doesn’t result in it being censored” said Senior Nick Brokaw, who is performing in this year’s show.

“The school needs censorship,” Kho said, “but not as much as it has now.”

Despite the controversy, “some censorship is always going to be part of a school-sponsored performance,” acknowledged Senior Tyrus Emory, who is in charge of Masque’s lighting.

In spite of the censorship issue, everyone is still eager for the show to open. “I am so excited for Masque. I cannot wait to see all the acts,” Junior Jenny Hardy said animatedly.

“It’s amazing to have a way to show people what we can do,” Brokaw said. “Masque is like the Olympics. There is so much time in between and you anticipate them and miss them when they’re gone.”

Masque takes place March 11, 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. For ticket information call MHS at 310.457.6801.