The District 9 One-Act Play Festival has grown from just a handful of schools that would perform in their own auditoriums.
This year's festival, which included Gaither High, was held Thursday and Friday, and featured 26 different area schools that came together at the Theatre Centre of the University of South Florida. While the university venue is an exciting place for high school actors to perform, it's also centrally located to accommodate schools as far away as Alonso and Riverview.
"We had more schools this year than we've ever had; it allows more to go (to states)," said Armwood High drama teacher Amanda Depin, who directed her school's performance of "The Way to Heaven."
Each school put together a one-act play that it presented to each other and to a panel of adjudicators, who ultimately chose five teams to move on to the state competition in March. This year, Wharton, Riverview, Alonso, Steinbrenner and Plant City high schools will bring their shows to states at the Straz Center.
It is no small feat to usher in and out 26 different plays over the stretch of just two days. It takes a great deal of patience and coordination.
"We celebrate everyone's successful journey and are honored and humbled too be a part of it," said Wharton theater director Jas Warren, whose school was one of the hosts that helped the event go off without a hitch.
Puppets, Ballet and More
For its performance, the team from Alonso High chose "Avenue Q," a musical comedy done with puppets.
"It's like Seasame Street for grown-ups," said director and Alonso drama teacher Lisa Vorreiter, who was tasked with taming the two-hour show into a 40-minute act. "I just like the concept; it takes something familiar and modernizes it."
Working with the puppets presented its own unique challenges for the Alonso High thespians.
"The puppets don't have facial expressions, so you have to use your own face to express what the character/puppet is feeling," said sophomore Kyle Allen, who operated the character Rod.
Next up was Freedom High's production of "The Butterfly," a ballet/performance art selection written by Bijan Mofid and directed by Freedom drama teacher Jenny Holden.
"We wanted to do something no one else has ever done at this festival," said Holden.
Hillsborough High followed with its production of "Citizen's Arrest," by Bobby Kenniston and directed by drama teacher Jeff Pittard. The ensemble comedy is about a random assembly of public park-goers who put a litterbug on trial for his crime.
"I actually let the kids choose which play we were going to do this year," said Pittard. "We liked 'Citizens Arrest' because it kept 30 actors busy and had audience appeal."
Wharton High senior Sean Cromley, who played Hansel in his troupe's production of "A Tale Dark and Grimm," said the competition "is unlike any other experience you can have."
"We've put literally blood, sweat and tears into this," said Cromley, who helped Wharton qualify for its 15th straight trip to states.
Thursday evening, Tampa Bay Tech presented "Math for Actors: by Emily C.A. Snyder and directed by drama teacher Peter Terzian. Juniors Brittany McCain and Tyler Wood carried the production, a two-character piece about an actor who has a crush on a math tutor he is tricking into helping him.
"I really didn't do much; the kids did most everything themselves, from picking out the piece, to blocking," Terzian said. "I came in and made a few suggestions but it was largely their work."
Gaither High's production of "The Role of Della," by John Wooten and directed by Gaither drama teacher Candace Newman, centers around an auditionee who assumes the role of auditioner and puts the first audtionee through hell, steals her spot in line, and then performs the very same audtion piece.
"We felt like it was appropriate material for the audience we were presenting it to," said Newman.
The characters and small cast made the selection ideal for the Gaither team.
"We have a small troupe and girls whose personalities fit the roles well," said Newman.
Competing Area Schools
- Alonso High: "Avenue Q" by Jeff Whitty, music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, directed by Lisa Vorreiter.
- Armwood High: "The Way to Heaven" by Juan Mayorga and directed by drama teacher Amanda Depin
- Bloomingdale High: "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" by Greg Allen and the Neo-Futurists and directed by Alysia Cruz.
- Brandon High: "Bone China" by K.Alexa Mavromatis and directed by Marilyn Rose Nicholson.
- Carrollwood Day School: of "Pvt. Wars" by James McLure and directed by Michael Valdez.
- Chamberlain High: "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" by Celeste Raspanti and directed by Lauren Saslow.
- Durant High: "Magic Fairy in the Microwave" by Dara Murphy and directed by Ed Mason.
- Freedom High: "The Butterfly" by Bijan Mofid and directed by Freedom drama teacher Jenny Holden.
- Gaither High: "The Role of Della" by John Wooten and directed by Gaither drama teacher Candace Newman.
- Hillsborough High: "Citizen's Arrest" by Bobby Kenniston and directed by drama teacher Jeff Pittard.
- King High: "Sorry Wrong Number" by Lucille Fletcher and directed by Lauren Persaud.
- Newsome High: "Smile" by David Campton and directed by Alexandria Redman.
- Plant High: "The Matchmaker" by Thornton Wilder and directed by Teryle Traver.
- Riverview High: "Grey Gardens" by Doug Wright, with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie.
- Robinson High: "Into the Woods" by Lapine and Sondheim, directed by student Sarah Taylor.
- Tampa Bay Tech: 'Math for Actors' by Emily C.A. Snyder and directed by drama teacher Peter Terzian.
- Wharton High: "A Tale Dark and Grimm" based on an Adam Gidwitz novel and directed and adapted by Jas Warren.