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High School Thespians Compete in State Festival

45 Minutes in the Spotlight: High School Thespians Compete in State Festival
This is the image for the news article titled 45 Minutes in the Spotlight: High School Thespians Compete in State FestivalMary Kate Murphy, The Pilot

For the people who bring them to life on stage, true stories, ghost stories and folk tales are all the same: every detail matters.

That’s especially true for theater students from North Moore and Union Pines who competed in Greensboro this week at the N.C. Theatre Conference’s State High School Play Festival. Part March Madness, part Academy Awards for student dramatists, the festival gives each time just 45 minutes to set up, perform a one-act production and then strike the stage.

Every moment, every movement, each costume and light can make a difference.

North Moore and Union Pines were among 91 schools from across the state to enter contention for the festival through seven regional festivals held in late October and early November. The top two shows from each festival — one selected by a panel of theater educators and professionals, one chosen by an audience poll — moved on to the state festival.

North Moore High School students perform 'The Girl in the White Pinafore' Tuesday night at Pinecrest High. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Including two regional honorable mentions randomly selected as “wildcard” entries, 16 shows emerged from an original field of 109 to progress to Greensboro this past Thursday and Friday. Both public and private schools participate in the NCTC festival each year.

Union Pines’ production of “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” by Don Zolidis was the judge’s choice Distinguished Play at the Nov. 4-5 regional festival that North Moore hosted. The group received the judges’ nod for Outstanding Achievement in Ensemble Acting and Excellence in Characterization. Individual awards went to Caleb Fox for Excellence in Acting and Fai Volitis for Excellence in Set Construction.

Making the most of limited time has been the theme of this year for Union Pines’ new theater teacher, Chase Coston. This is also Coston’s first year participating in the N.C. Theatre Conference play festival, and first year teaching.

Students audition at the end of every year to enroll in honors theater and participate in NCTC. So even before the first day of school, Coston set about reading scripts for 60 one-act plays that could be produced with the seven actors and two crew members he had to work with.

He finally landed on “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon,” which incorporates elements of all 209 entries in that oeuvre of folklore — yes, in less than 40 minutes.

“I just loved it because it was chaotic, funny and high energy,” Coston said. “I felt like if it was done right then it would just be one of those shows where you can’t look away or blink.”

Union Pines students perform 'The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon' Tuesday night at Pinerest High. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

He set the class to reading the script on Day One, and the show was cast for the second week of school: no small feat considering that most of the students play four or five roles each.

“We worked really hard on making each character specific and unique, and talking about what makes this character different in this story and how they can change that with their voices and their bodies and their acting,” said Coston, who also earned an Excellence in Directing award at the regional festival.

“As a cast I think the thing we struggled with the most was getting a level of energy that felt extreme but didn’t verge on the level of total chaos. So finding that perfect balance of high energy, but controlling it.”

Excitement for the state festival did not push Union Pines to make significant changes to the show in an attempt to “up their game” for a more competitive stage.

“The reason we progressed on from regionals is because we brought everything we had,” Coston said. “Going to states is about bringing that exact same show with that same level of commitment to a new theater. It’s all about finding your top and staying there as opposed to trying to invent something new.”

Joining them at the state competition was North Moore with its production of “The Girl in the White Pinafore” by Jiggs Burgess. North Moore’s interpretation of the ghost story based on the true events of the 1837 school explosion in New London, Texas was the audience’s choice from the regional festival.

Most of North Moore’s technical awards from that event were for its other entry: “Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical” by Melvin Tunstall III. Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design went to Zoie Jones, and Jalen Troublefield earned the Outstanding Achievement in Acting award. Zoie Jones and Ivy Jones also earned Excellence in Acting awards. Excellence in Stage Management went to Maycee Kimball and Veronica Cox for their work on both productions, and teacher Kimberly Fielder-Jones won Excellence in Directing for “Polkadots.”

Pinecrest High students perform 'One Lane Bridge' Tuesday night at Pinecrest High. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Pinecrest also participated in the regional festival with “One Lane Bridge” by Stephen Gregg. Briana Bostic won awards for Excellence in Costume Design and Excellence in Acting. Alexi Colones was also recognized for Excellence in Costume Design, and Excellence in Lighting Design went to Josh Markotich.

All three schools performed at Pinecrest on Tuesday evening to raise funds for their theater arts programs. Awards from the State Play Festival had not been announced by Friday at presstime.

Click here to view the article from The Pilot.

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