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High school thespians win honors from state festival

The theatre departments at all four of Henderson County's traditional public high schools are celebrating their recognition in the 2021 NCTC High School Play Festival regionals Nov. 5-6 at Gardner-Webb University, hauling a total of 19 group and individual awards home to Henderson County.

This year, Henderson County public school students were among more than 1,500 students from 71 schools performing 89 plays at seven regional sites for the Play Festival. Participating schools travel to their regional festival sites with theatrical sets, costumes and props. Each show loads into a 10’x10’ backstage area and when their time comes, each school has 45 minutes to set up, perform the play, and clear the stage. Following their performance, students receive feedback from professional actors and directors with Broadway and Hollywood credits. Awards were given for acting, design, technical craft, ensemble work, and festival spirit. The top 16 productions are invited to perform at the NCTC State High School Play Festival, held Nov. 19 and 21 at Greensboro College.

West Henderson High’s theatre program, led by Kelly Cooper, presented “Puffs” at the Regional Festival, and won the “Festival Spirit Award,” “Excellence in Ensemble Acting,” and “Honorable Mention Distinguished Play” as an ensemble. Student Rainy Fizer earned the “Barbizon Excellence in Design & Production” award for Lighting Design, Summer Hyder earned the “Barbizon Excellence in Design & Production” award for Sound Design, and Karsyn Andress earned the “Theatre Arts Award” for Excellence in Narration.

For their production of “The Blue Hour,” Hendersonville High’s theatre program, led by Todd Weakley, snagged the “Festival Spirit Award” and “Theatre Arts Award” for Excellence in Stage Pictures. Student Auden Pelz earned the “Barbizon Excellence in Design & Production” award for Lighting Design, Stage Management, Poster and T-Shirt Design. Alexis Rubianes earned the “Barbizon Excellence in Design & Production” award for Sound Design and Marie Danos took home “Excellence in Acting.”

Theatre teacher Clay Gaitskill led East Henderson High’s production, "Becoming Family: an Original Southern Comedy About Putting the Fun in Funeral,” which earned a Festival Spirit Award and “Theatre Arts Award” for Excellence in Props, and students Rutzel Montiel and Garret Metcalf each earned “Excellence in Acting” awards.

Led by Sydney Bailey, North Henderson High theatre students Emma Osteen, Charleston Reagan and Lola Fisher each earned “Excellence in Acting” awards for their performances in “Zoinks!” which also earned a Festival Spirit Award.

The Play Festival allows teachers to fulfill the NC Essential Standards for Theatre Arts: students study and analyze literary texts as they select their Play Festival piece, and during the rehearsal process young artists analyze theatre in terms of the social, historical, and cultural contexts in which it was created. At the NCTC Festival, students use performance to communicate ideas and feelings, and by watching other schools’ performances, students develop critical thinking skills and learn to understand the traditions, roles, and conventions of theatre as an art form.