In the spotlight

Erick Arenales, a Cedar Shoals senior, dedicates his free time in drama rehearsal to perfect his lines and movements to his new characters: Justinius, Aurelius, and a fox for Cedar’s Theater’s upcoming performance of The Canterbury Tales.

“Before I perform in a play, I have to warm up my throat, vocalize, and memorize my lines. I have to be calm and collected when I am performing on stage. If I am full of adrenaline, I am  more likely to mess up on stage and my whole crew can suffer and will have to pick me back up,” said Arenales.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 2000, Arenales and his family moved to Athens when he was two years old. With his mother being from El Salvador and his father from Guatemala, Arenales is grateful for the valuable life lessons he has been taught from his family.

“My mom and dad did not know any English, so they had to learn from TV shows and from the streets. Funny story, my Dad had learned English through the show Friends. I guess Ross and Rachel really helped him out,” Arenales said.

Arenales realizes that migrating to the United States wasn’t as simple as hanging out at the Central Park cafe with Ross and Rachel, however.

“They also struggled with not knowing how life is in the United States and making the sacrifice of leaving your family behind back in a country that is not in the best of ways. Even in today it is a weird understanding from me trying to connect to my home origin, but they do so they have the struggle of me not realizing how it is,” said Arenales.

Arenales will be a first generation college student in his family. Since his mother was unable to receive her high school diploma, he feels a great sense of ambition to pursue higher education.

“It is a bittersweet moment seeing my son going to college. I am proud of him wanting to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and being the first one of the family to attend college. However, there is always the feeling of sadness about seeing him grow up,” said Maria Alarcon, Erick’s mother.

After arriving in Athens, Arenales attended Howard B. Stroud Elementary school and Coile Middle school. To Arenales, Cedar is a place where people are able to find their passion if they are willing to look for it.

“Cedar Shoals sure is unique. There are really cool people here and the teachers are fun, but the atmosphere could be better. However, there is always something in Cedar that is made for somebody and that’s what students have to figure out for themselves,” said Arenales

Arenales’ aspires to attend Georgia State University, pursuing a major in TV and film production. In addition, he also wants to pursue acting.   

“It was always my dream of just realizing I can be a person who can make other people feel things because in my life, it is somewhat hard for a teenage boy to make others feel emotions such as happiness. I see acting as a way of cheering people up and making them realize their emotions,” said Arenales.

Matthew Vaughn’s film Kingsman: The Secret Service ignited Arenales’ interest in pursuing acting in productions at Cedar.

“When I was watching the “Kingsman: The Secret Service, it felt like that was my calling right there. Watching Taron Egerton play a British spy in all these nice suits and using all of the high tech gadgets in the theater sparked my interest in pursuing film. At the end of the movie, I realized I want to be just like Egerton. I want to make people feel like an explosion went off in their heart and in their minds, feeling that ‘wow’ factor,” said Arenales.

Arenales enjoys the challenge of memorizing lines and learning to bring them to life.

“I love playing different types of emotions and characters on stage because you can make the audience realize like ‘Wow he can really change the emotion of a human pretty easily.’ But as a young actor still striving to be better, there are a lot of things that I still need to work on such as finding more efficient ways to memorize my lines and portraying my emotions on stage better,” said Arenales, who wants to learn to portray accents next.

Arenales’ favorite role was when he played Thisbe in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream because it offered a different kind of opportunity: dressing up like a woman.

“During the time period the play was performed, women weren’t allowed to play in the theater. I had to dress up as a lady.  People would continue to call me by my female name rather than my actual name. Everyone would say pretty comical jokes to me, it made my rehearsals pretty special,” Arenales said.

Although it seems like Arenales can perform effortlessly on stage, he has also had his fair share of mistakes. In Arenales’ most recent role of Dr. Emerson, the main antagonist in Whose Life Is It Anyway, he fell victim to stage fright.

“I forgot my lines in the middle of the play. I definitely panicked. I looked at the stage, I looked at the audience and for a minute. I collected myself and I had to improvise. The thing about messing up is that it’s human. We all aren’t perfect and you have to keep going to make up for your mistakes,” said Arenales

Some of Arenales’ inspiration for the stage also came from an unlikely source: Future Farmers of America, which served as a gateway for him to boost his confidence and improve his acting skills.

“FFA has helped me with my acting. For example, every summer when school is over, FFA allows members to travel to a summer leadership camp. My favorite part about the camp is that they host a performance show where we have to act out in front of a crowd of children,” Arenales said.

For all of his dedication towards FFA, Arenales has received an FFA state degree in 2018, clocking over 300+ hours of community service throughout his high school career and traveling to Indianapolis for the national FFA conference to receive the degree.

Arenales understands that he is pursuing a competitive profession in acting and film production, but he has high hopes for his future.

“I have realized that life is going to be hard, it is going to be like moving a boulder up the mountain especially for the career path that I want to take. People are going to be stepping on me and high school is just that building block that’s going to make sure you are fortified in your future,” said Arenales