Pauline Maranian, Estancia High School's drama teacher, froze Monday afternoon. She stared at the computer screen in her classroom for the longest time.
She had just read news she would have to keep secret for at least a day.
Her cast of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" had just won an accolade she compared to an Oscar for California high schoolers.
On Tuesday afternoon, the anticipation paid off when she told her cast and crew of about 25 students.
The room near the back of the campus exploded in cheers.
"It was so hard not to tell you guys," she said. "Your reaction was the best feeling I'd ever had."
The California Educational Theatre Assn. (CETA) picked Estancia's Shakespearean comedy for one of four Mainstage awards given out across Southern California.
"We just won CIF pretty much," senior Danielle Ridge said. "I'm so happy I can't stop crying."
Last year she and a friend were convinced Estancia's production of "The Crucible" would nab top honors. But this year, balancing a complex comedy made victory even sweeter, students said.
"This year we conquered Shakespeare, and that's a feat in and of its own," senior Maren McClanahan said.
Now students will be preparing for two performances at once as they get ready for their March performance of "Guys and Dolls" and practice their "A Midsummer Night's Dream" lines for CETA's January festival.
The Mainstage schools will perform their winning plays as part of a three-day festival at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga.
"The best part of it is they get to do the whole thing in front of 2,000 theater students who are the most receptive, best audience you could ever have," Maranian said. "They not only get an award, they get to show them what they've been working so hard at, and it'll be for a really appreciative and generous crowd. So it's a huge deal."
Maranian has taught drama at Estancia for 16 years, taking over for Barbara Van Holt, whose name now graces the school's theater.
Although Van Holt claimed a Mainstage award, it's Maranian's first time winning during her tenure.
"You deserve this," Maranian told her students. "I'm shaking I'm so happy for you guys. I can not wait until January."
Ivy Denton, a junior who plays Puck in her first-ever performance at Estancia, echoed a line from the play to explain how she felt.
"I'm amazed and know not what to say," she said.
There are two more performances of Estancia's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Students will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Barbara Van Holt Theatre, 2323 Placentia Ave.
Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students. More information is available at (949) 515-6537.