Yesterday was the annual GISA Region 1AA One-Act Play contest, in Carrollton, GA.

To get the suspense out of the way: Region 1AA, in my opinion, is one of the toughest state-wide for theater competition, and our previous 3 years’ Region winners (Oak Mountain, Brandon Hall, & Lagrange) were in top form as usual, and again received top ranking. But we had an excellent day, so I’m going to tell everyone about it!

Our entire Tuesday/Thursday Drama class has been working hard all semester, with Lydia Dené & myself, on a very complicated show. The Maintenance department helped us out by loaning us a full classroom set of desks & chairs  for our set, and the students (and parents) themselves put together most of the costumes, with the addition of some excellent specialized shirts courtesy of Kelley Hundt. All 17 students gave up their “free” Friday after last week’s dance to pull a full day of rehearsal, and we have a big thank you to Krista Yager for rewarding their dedication with a lunch spread.

This week, a sidelined Bethany Lingle stepped into the (assistant) director’s chair to offer some excellent constructive criticism, great acting notes, and huge encouragement to her classmates  during final rehearsals. Previous Drama veteran Alex Nebel (who also gave up her Friday) snuck out of Driver’s Ed to help us out onstage, and newcomer Ginny Metcalf added an extra scene to her previous preparation. We additionally acquired the invaluable help of Erin McNeal as a stagehand/properties manager for the trip. Maurice Coley helped to get everything secured in the truck Tuesday evening and we were ready to go.

As we prepared to head out EARLY in the morning, we were joined by Chelsea Porter, our other member of the Drama Department (we’ve grown into a “Department”!!!) The group enjoyed a huge breakfast spread provided by Lisa Baumohl, Jane (and Daniel) Toledo, Matt Metcalf, Sandy Webb, and Jeannette Graft. We hit the road for Carrollton, GA and made it just in time for the AM Directors’ meeting and the beginning of the contest.

When you are in as strong a region as ours, it’s less of a “competition” and more like a theater festival full of great shows. The morning set was St. George Episcopal with a modern social commentary play Community Service, written by their own director Laura King, Flint River Academy’s performance of Pamela Parker’s historical social commentary play Second Samuel, and Lagrange Academy’s amazing presentation of B. Dwayne Craft’s The Last Illusion, a biographical account of Harry Houdini (which would go on to win the day.)

As the shows went on, we had a historically sized TCS audience building: beyond our 17 students and 3 teachers, we were joined by Krista Yager, Lisa Baumohl, Matt Metcalf, Cat Barnes, and Mike Janyska’s grandparents, who all made the trip out to Carrollton to be there for us. Key audience member Dr. Steve Palmer also made it out to support the group during their performance!

We were scheduled first after lunch, so Krista again made sure our “Drama army” was well fed, as we prepared in the dressing room (Ginny Metcalf’s homemade Rice Krispy Treats, and some halloween candy cheerfully delivered by our supportive fellow actors from Lagrange Academy, provided a dessert, as well.) A missing costume crisis for Natalie Yager (which was totally my fault) was swiftly fixed by Krista and castmate Julia Baumohl, and we were ready to hit the stage!

Jonathan Dorf’s After Math is a comedy/drama hybrid set during a math test, serving as an artistic meditation on any and all high school students who “disappear” from the school group. It is a very tough piece, and our group worked relentlessly on it to prepare for yesterday. As Lydia and Erin organized backstage, Chelsea set up the video camera, and I frantically accustomed myself to the light board in the booth, I watched it unfold.

Long-time veteran Jenni Graft had the privilege of announcing our show to the judges, then Garrett Hundt kicked it off with the tough job of an expositional monologue to set the scene while our group was busy assembling the classroom set onstage behind him, after which Kate McDuffie began her role as the teacher, roaming all over the place monitoring students, and keeping up with more blocking than everyone else combined. Yasmin Makara’s quirky character led the first comedic “disappearance” segment, which was also hilariously acted by Nick Rice, Lindy Barnes, and Zev Fine. Natalie expertly pulled off a very difficult monologue to begin the “tilt” toward more serious themes in the show, which was then offset by a funny moment from Mike Janyska. Then, another hilarious “disappearance” theory acted by Nick, Lindy and Zev, driven this time by Jenni as an over-enthusiastic rock fan. Mike reappeared for another great bit of comedy, and then Julia took center stage and flipped the show sideways with a devastating monologue about school bullying, which pulled an audible gasp from the audience. Hannah Webb started the next segment with her snarky monologue, interrupted by a much snarkier Mia Toledo, as Ginny, Natalie, Jenni, and Macey Slovin piled in to build a very tough scene with 3 conflicting stories and conversations going on at once. Cullen Scott’s character fully emerged here as the focus of the rest of the show, a lost student trying to find any place to connect and fit in. Ginny broke the fourth wall entirely with her monologue, one last funny moment pointing out all the inconsistencies in everyone’s memory of the disappearance. Then the serious tone took hold for good as Macey shifted us to Greek theater tradition, leading the scene as a blind seer as the actors (including Alex) spoke, often in chorus, to bring the show toward  its conclusion. Zev took lead at the end with a reflective monologue about everything we presented while the group gradually “disappeared” the set, leaving one desk remaining as Zev and Cullen gave the audience their final question to ponder. Julia and Natalie cleared the stage, and a flawless performance was over.

Everybody brought their best to the stage. They were in full command of their lines, their parts, their timing for the funny scenes, their delivery for the dramatic scenes, and of course the overall message of the show. Lydia and I are so incredibly proud of all of them. In fact, as I was rushing backstage from the booth to tell them so, I ran into our Regional Coordinator, Oak Mountain’s Kari Manuel, who was also very impressed with them, and said so. As did Laura King, from St. George, and many more who were present at the event.

The day wasn’t over, as we watched Brandon Hall’s expertly acted performance of Roberto F. Ciccotelli’s Through the Mirror, a disturbing, Alice in Wonderland themed warning about drugs (which took 2nd place), and then finally Oak Mountain Academy’s hilarious performance of Bertram Bumgarner’s Poe-Dunked, a series of many different comedy scenes about Edgar Allan Poe (which took 3rd.)

The judges went off to deliberate, and as is tradition, the event’s techincal director Hunter led a full-on dance party on the stage, featuring actors from all 6 schools (and nearly our entire cast). The judges finished, and the organizers announced the winners, where we were thrilled to find out that Nick and Lindy were recognized with Honorable Mentions for their performances!!

Lydia, Chelsea and I would like to thank everyone who supported us and/or came out, especially Alex Nebel and Erin McNeal for giving up their whole day on Halloween even though they weren’t in the class! An additional big thank you goes out to Kelley Hundt and Troy McNeal for staying behind at school to make sure everything got put away.

We look forward to seeing all of you at our school performance on Tuesday, November 13th at 6 PM in the Cougar Center!