As the theater lights dim, the excitement of the audience and voices of speakers emanate across the room. Performances portrayed life experiences involving chronic diseases, deafness, abuse and depression. (Jordan Lee)
Floodlights and fairy lights illuminated the crowd of students at this year’s outdoor portion of Irvine Talks on Nov. 23 from 5:30 p.m-7:30 p.m. It featured a variety of new activities such as a “Just Dance” battle tent, photo booth and collaborative friendship bracelet station. One of its most memorable attractions was the art walls, which featured dozens of art pieces from all six Irvine high schools.
To add to the lively atmosphere of the outdoor gala, University High’s student-created jazz band, Monks of Funk, entertained audience members as they enjoyed food from the two food trucks present.
Two a capella groups, both from University High, also performed.
“The outdoor event, with various activities, allowed for people to interact with each other and appreciate the human connection [with one another],” senior Stephanie Zhang said.
Senior Ajinkya Rane and junior Esther Moon worked with fellow Irvine Talks board members Joy Chen (University High), Sydney Field (University High), Nikki Ghaemi (University High), Anshay Saboo (University High) and Hannah Woo (University High) to plan the event and audition speakers as early as May. They were responsible for building and painting the four wooden cubes and six murals that illustrated the purpose and theme of the event. Limited edition T-shirts from the past three years were sold, filling the event grounds with a sea of olive greens and maroons with each person there for Irvine Talks.
“We all have our own football games, spirit nights, spirit weeks, and these are all separate highschool events and we all do things so differently. If you talk to other people, you see how different everything is,” Saboo said. “This is one of the few events that is just for high school students, just for kids here in Irvine. You have other Orange County, Irvine events but this is for the high school students, by high school students. That’s kind of what’s special about this. That’s why I feel so attached to this.”
The Indoor Event
Students from all six IUSD high schools gathered together to celebrate Irvine Talks’ Chapter 3 on Nov. 23 from 7-9:30 pm. This year’s theme was “Movement,” which featured many different interpretations from this year’s 18 performers, four of which were Portola High students.
From stories of battles with depression and eating disorders to choreographed dances and original music, the event revealed a true theme of unification among audience members, no matter which high school they attended.
“We’ve all done some kind of movement, whether it’s switching a school, changing a mindset, and we just wanted that to be a centralized idea,” vice president Anshay Saboo said. “The whole idea is to understand that we are defined by our perspectives and our experiences as all kids in Irvine. We might think that we’re alone in our experiences, that we’re like nobody really understands what we’re going through, but I want people to understand that this is like we’re in this together.”
The performances filled the auditorium with both awe-struck silence and passionate cheering, reflecting the dynamic interaction between speaker and audience.
“I was able to find pieces of myself within each story, and it gave me strength and inspiration knowing that everyone is connected by similar struggles and successes,” senior Stephanie Zhang said. “It was touching for me to see how much all the speakers were willing to show their vulnerable stories of ultimate growth.”
Senior Jude Chau’s performance, titled “A Self Worth Having,” was accompanied by moments of tear-inducing laughter, a stark contrast to his serious experience with self-doubt and depression.
“In my talk, I indicated that we can think that we’re moving, but really, we’re just walking in circles, going through the motions. I hope that people took that to heart while listening to my talk,” Chau said. “Nothing gets done if we just sit alone, sulking in our own emotions. Healing and growth takes effort.”