Sunday, December 02, 2007

The results are in

Like most things in Texas, the public schools’ One Act Play competition is a big deal. The high schools compete in an intricate bracketing system that takes eight schools to Austin for the state finals each May. No bracketing system exists for middle school (they just do the play once within their district and trophies are awarded for first, second, and third place), but it’s still a pretty big deal in my district. One of the high schools that my school feeds has been to the state finals seven out of the last eight years, and has more trophies from the state finals than any school in Texas.

Our competition was yesterday. Despite a kid flaking out on me (I had to kick her out on Friday after she had skipped three rehearsals, and then I had to talk another cast member into learning her role in a day) things went well. They talked way too fast (we usually ran the show at 29 minutes, they did it in just under 20) but they were enthusiastic, expressive, and loud.

The awards ceremony started with the tech awards. They gave trophies to the best tech crews, and we were awarded first place. I’m a very competitive person, and I’ve always wanted to win an overall trophy, but that tech award means more to me than anything else. The overall trophies basically come down to the whims and opinions of a single judge, but the tech awards are decided by the in-house crew. A good school can walk out without an overall trophy, but this tech award means I’m doing something right as a teacher. The high school tech teacher said that my kids were the most well-prepared and professional of all the crews.

Then came the acting awards. The judge picked eight kids from the whole district as the “honorable mention all-star cast” and eight kids as the “all-star cast,” plus a “best actor” and “best actress.” Would you believe the girl who took over the role at the last minute was named part of the honorable mention all-star cast? My female lead got “all-star cast,” and my male lead was named “best actor” in the district. Seeing my kids winning awards for things we’ve worked on together is one of my proudest accomplishments. Seeing them smiling down at me from the stage and holding their medals filled me with complete and total joy.

In the end, we took third place overall. The shows that took first and second place were legitimately better than ours, and my kids recognized that, and they weren’t bitter. They said it gives them something to aspire to, and next year they’re going to blow everyone else away.

Yeah we will.


At 11:15 PM, Blogger chitarita said...


At 1:00 PM, Blogger Walker said...

Hurrah for you and your students!

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Meg O'C said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Meg O'C said...

I'm envisioning the day when Texas institutes a non-competitive theater festival with no winners and no losers, just sharing in the act of theatrical communication...
And now I'm awake again.

Good on you for surviving the ugliness of "competitive art," and brigning your kids through it with style and grace. Big Ups to all of you!

At 10:13 PM, Blogger Holbrook said...

Meg, I know how you feel. In the Texas One Act Play competition, we claim that it's about putting on a good show and not about the trophies, but that's not really true. It's extremely cutthroat, especially in the Dallas area, and competitive success is taken as a synonym for artistic achievement. Such a mindset degrades creative enterprise and ruins any sense of community.

On the other hand, it keeps theatre in schools. The One Act Play competition is governed by the same organization that controls varsity football. Without the support of this organization, a Theatre Arts class in the public schools would be considered an exotic luxury, like a Mandarin Chinese class. Over 1000 Texas high schools compete in the annual contest, which means at least 1000 high schools get some form on theatrical education.

Artistic competition is oxymoronic is most respects. This contest is a microscopic step forward in the cultural wasteland of Texas, but I'll take any step forward. And since theatre began as a contest, I can't complain too much. Still, I dream of a day when Texas schoolchildren can gather to tell and hear the great stories of the ages without ten dollars worth of tin and marble on the line.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Shakespeare Teacher said...

Wow! Well spoken sir!

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Sandi said...

First off, I can't imagine any state that brought us Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Van Cliburn Piano competition as a real cultural wasteland.

Second, congratulations. I know how hard you have to work to get to that point.

Third, for reasons I can't fathom, my playwright/NASA dude husband was asked to judge the high school one-acts in our district and state competition this year. After it was all over, I got an earful about #1 just how difficult it all was to make aethetic judgements among different types of plays, and #2, how freaking mean some of the other judges were in their comments and attitudes towards the competitors.

As it was, the biggest school in our district ( and the second largest in the state) won hands down for Marat/Sade. He wanted to give second to a brilliant production of Comedy of Errors, but was voted down by the Mean Judges who had a thing for the "dead/dying child" plays, well-done or not.

On the whole, after hearing all this from him, I deduced that: #1 It would be great not to have competition among artists, but that won't happen, and it does make for great theatre. He said Marat/Sade was as well done (acting and tech) as anything he's seen anywhere.

And #2, a lot of judges like plays where as many kids die tragic deaths as possible, even if the show isn't very good.

And I'm doing "Amadeus" next September at the Von Braun Center. The tech budget alone is killing me. Wish I could put you in it!

At 2:21 PM, Blogger David Quinn said...

I'd like to take a moment and raise a special glass of bubbly to a certain male teacher in the state of Texas! He's never been properly supported by the admins around him - quite the opposite, if memory serves me - and yet he's still making a difference in the lives of young people.



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