UPDATE: Students in one act play win state competition

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UPDATE: Students in one act play win state competition

Noah Barker, A/E& Opinions Editor

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On December 3, the THS one-act play, directed by Mrs. Kristen WIlliams, won the VHSL Theatre state championship. The performance of “This Side of Heaven,” originally written by Don Zolidis, featured seniors Camron Beale and Mary Catherine Jones in the leading roles, who were supported by juniors Carter Mills and Kimberly Shogan.

The competition took place at Monticello HIgh School in Charlottesville, where they faced off with Brookville High School, New Kent High School, and William Monroe High School in the Class Three division.

Performing during the afternoon sessions, the group achieved perfect scores from three of the four judges, which earned them championship status at both state and regional level.

“I’ve done the one-act every year since I came here in 2009,” said Williams. “This is only the third time we’ve qualified for state’s and the second time we’ve competed.”

The one-act is also being recognized by the school board.

“A sweeping victory,” Mrs. Williams laughed.

This is due in no small part to the lead roles of Beale and Jones, who were awarded Outstanding Actor Awards in both regional and state competition. Out of 45 total actors, only four could be chosen for the prestigious recognition. Having even one student earn this would be an achievement; however, Tunstall brought home two for each competition.

To them, this would have been utterly impossible without their supporting cast.

“ I don’t think a show can happen with one person. I give a lot of credit to them, especially Carter and Kimberly,” said co-lead Mary-Catherine Jones.

While Jones, Mills, and Beale are experienced in theatre productions, co-star Kimberly Shogan, who was the only new actor, took time to acclimate.

“I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first,” said Shogan. “It was just like, ‘Okay this happening.’ It was fun though. I’d definitely do it again.”

Also new to theatre was the technician, senior Gavin Draughn. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he volunteered to fill in for the previous technician, which meant he had to learn how to use a lights and sound panel right before state’s competition.

“It was like looking at an alien spaceship at first, but once Mrs. Williams showed me everything, it was simple,” he humbly joked..

New recruits was not the only hurdle the cast needed to overcome, however, as their budget and cast size was confining; especially compared to their competition.

“I wasn’t nervous personally, but we were all kinda nervous because the other schools had bigger budgets,” said Shogan.

“All the sets were on loan. It was like, ‘Hey, does anybody have a wheelchair we can borrow?’” Mrs. WIlliams joked.

Due to their relatively small budget, the only main critique at state’s was the placement of their relatively small set. That sentence says something more important, however: their set was their only real critique. Even when at an obvious and severe disadvantage to their competition, the act gained critical and audience adoration, as well as Tunstall’s first ever win, because of their biggest strengths: talent and hard work.

“We’ve been practicing every day for like months. It didn’t settle in until that night. I went into my room and cried a little,” laughed Jones.

The cast began rehearsing on Sept. 6, and continued rehearsing over the next 12 weeks, totaling over 100 hours. This strenuous effort more than helped them, as even with their small budget, they swept the day.

“I would definitely say we were the underdogs. We often do a lot with very little, so it was nice to be recognized,” said Mrs. Williams.

Although this underdog story featuring months of hard work and determination finally paying off in the face of difficult odds is inspiring and satisfying, the greatest representation of the cast’s attitude came from co-lead Camron Beale.

“What would you say your reaction to winning was?” I asked him.

“Well,” he started,” it was dope, but I wasn’t surprised.”

He had a reason not to be.