By CLAIRE CHOI & KRISHNA KHAWANI
Three years after its initial debut at Portola High School, Irvine Talks took the stage once again on November 23rd. Born out of a desire to bring a sense of community to Irvine students, Irvine Talks has steadily grown to become a highly anticipated event for students, a celebration of the arts and human experience — all culminating in a single, amazing night each year.
Planning for this year’s event started as early as May, with board members Hannah Woo, Anshay Saboo, Sydney Field, Joy Chen, Ajinkya Rane (Portola High), Esther Moon (Portola High) and Nikki Ghaemi working to create the production. This board was responsible for building the outdoor event, auditioning performers, and even choosing a theme for the event.
Partnered with IPSF, the student board of Irvine Talks chose to design the 2019 event around the theme of, “Movement.” Performance Chair and junior Sydney Field explained, “We went through a ton of ideas, but Movement was broad enough to where we would get a wide variety of stories, but still push students to get creative and find a deeper meaning for themselves.”
Once the theme was decided upon, the board conducted auditions for performances alongside members of IPSF. As soon as the performers were chosen, the Irvine Talks board began to help performers finalize their scripts and held numerous rehearsals to make sure everything was ready for the big night. “This year, I wanted the performers to be able to connect with not only the audience through their story but also with the other performers and board,” said Sydney Field. “We had more rehearsals this year so we could understand each performer and give them as much support as they needed. I was able to get to know each performer and help them out with anything they were struggling with.”
This overarching theme of Movement was spread not only through the content of the performers, but also made its way into the outdoor section, the first event of the night. There, student art galleries, music bands, food trucks, and interactive activities took up the space outside of the Portola Theater. This area gave families and friends the ability to connect with one another while also getting a glimpse into the theme and how different people interpreted it. Some highly praised aspects of the outdoor event were the collaborative murals, created by students from all of the schools working alongside each other.
As the outdoor event came to a close, hundreds of students and parents made their way into the theater to prepare for the indoor event. Here, sixteen performances would take place, ranging from stories of depression and disorders, to heartfelt dance routines, and even original songs. Out of these sixteen, six were from UHS, with the performers being Krishna Khawani, Caedon Ng, Kasra Lekan, Diya Chakraborti, Precious Palomar, and Hannah Woo. Every performance related to the theme of Movement, a testament to the unity that Irvine Talks brings to the entire community.
“Listening to each person’s talk made me realize that despite school, age, and race differences everyone is going through the same things,” said junior Anjali Arasasingham.
The performances filled the theater with moments of deafening laughter and applause, as well as somber silence, a true indicator of just how much of an impact Irvine Talks had on the audience. These interactions not only affected the audience, but also had a profound impact on how the performers felt and delivered their pieces.
Portola High School senior Jude Chau’s performance took the audience by surprise with his lighthearted and humorous approach to his serious discussion on depression and self-worth. The performance was accompanied by roars of laughter from the audience and even an impromptu TikTok dance from Chau himself.
“I was so nervous. I actually forgot my lines after my first two sentences. Then, after I told the audience that I was gay, they applauded really loudly and the rest is a blur. I got overwhelmed and I think I was just laughing on stage for a couple minutes” explained Chau.
As the event came to a close, all of the night’s performers took the stage during the president Hannah Woo’s piece. The audience filed back out in front of the theater, eager to meet and congratulate the performers. Many audience members could be seen on the verge of tears while speaking with one another, moved by the stories they had just heard.
“It made me realize that people have unimaginable struggles that they do not appear to have on the surface level. Also, I learned that our words have consequences. Many of the speakers talked about how the words of others deeply affected them—some in positive ways, others in negative ways,” said junior Leyland Yang.
Movement is defined differently by every person, because we all have different experiences that make us perceive the world in very different ways. At face value, school is stagnant, especially UHS. The mundane process of waking up, going to school, doing extracurriculars, and finishing homework seems to be a never-ending, cyclical struggle that we have all grown accustomed to. This cycle has become one of the defining stereotypes of Irvine, and it’s not a stereotype that most of us chose to challenge.
But Irvine Talks has proved that this city and its students are more than the stereotype, because we all go through things that challenge this stagnant nature. Irvine Talks is able to shift the focus toward those real issues that we face. Because, to feel safe in the safest city in the world, means you are able to connect with people on a deeper level and not feel isolated by the issues you face. And that is what Irvine Talks seeks to accomplish: bringing people together no matter their background. As a community, our movement is defined by the people who are willing to share these kinds of raw stories, and Irvine Talks is that movement.