Student thespians perform one-act plays at UIL regional competition

Even though they’re called “plays,” Yates and Carnegie Vanguard High Schools were definitely not playing around in this year’s UIL regional competition. The two high schools advanced to the regional round after first surpassing district, bi-district and area competitions, a feat that only 24 of the 253 high schools in their conference achieved.

Photographs of Carnegie Vanguard’s One-Act cast and crew by Maren Werner

The one-act plays are judged in categories including characterization (evidence that the actors understand their character objectives, conflict, and emotional context), physicality, vocal dynamics, theme and style, and performance effectiveness. The evaluation process is thorough and rigorous, with all elements assessed on a scale from fair to excellent with great attention to the minute details of each performance.

Both Yates and Carnegie Vanguard’s drama departments have history with the one-act play regional competition with Carnegie Vanguard making it to regionals in eight of the past nine years and Yates advancing to this level in 2013. Both departments have proved their chops in the past, but it is nearly unheard of for two HISD schools to progress to one-act play regionals at once.

On April 19, Yates competed in their region contest with a production of scenes from A Song for Coretta by Pearl Cleage, a moving vignette about a group of fictional mourners waiting in line to pay their respects to the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, in the week following her death.

The Yates cast and crew, comprised of five freshmen, one sophomore, one junior and one senior, were amazed to see that they were the smallest competing group, but went into the competition motivated and inspired, committed to telling the story of A Song for Coretta with grace and respect. Though Yates did not advance to the state competition, their Head Theater Director, Margo Hickman, has never been more proud of them.

“We are a special group,” Hickman said. “[This competition] requires discipline and hard work, but the faithful few have held on, and they are making our Lion family proud. The most important message the students have shared is that this represents academics, and they hope that [theater] can be recognized just like sports.”

Carnegie Vanguard performed select scenes from Charlie Sonata by Sandy Gierson. Their regional performance on April 22 earned them alternate to state, and though they will not be advancing to the state competition, placing alternate to state places them in the top 12 performances in the entire state of Texas.

“It’s always exciting to advance in any round and it’s an incredible privilege to be at the regional round representing HISD,” said Steward Savage, Head Theater Director at Carnegie Vanguard. “Our students have worked with such tenacity, passion, and creativity to tell a difficult story that resonates with all of us. The legacy you’re talking about is an incredibly humbling thought, and it’s only been achievable because our students believe in the power of storytelling. Making sure it’s not about winning or losing but rather about doing good theatre.”

To keep up with HISD theater, follow Fine Arts Curriculum Implementation Coach Jared Berry on Twitter, or visit the HISD Fine Arts Theater webpage for more information.