It Takes WIT
By Sydney Homerstad
Despite numerous obstacles, Crockett Theatre decided to push forward and participate in the University Interscholastic League’s One Act Play competition this year with their show, WIT.
The play follows Vivian Bearing, a witty and lonely English professor played by junior Sydney Homerstad, and her battle with stage four ovarian cancer, with themes of mortality and humanity.
UIL OAP is a category of UIL where actors and technicians are tasked with putting on a show with a time limit of 40 minutes. There are numerous rules and regulations to ensure fairness and appropriateness among productions. One such regulation is that 5A and 6A competitions are separate.
In the days just before competition, each school gets the opportunity to have a professional watch their show and give them notes before they compete. This is called Clinic. Crockett’s appraiser, Phillip Taylor, was unable to attend due to being pulled to be a judge at the last moment. To make up for this, Crockett received an hour with him after Zone as opposed to the standard 15 minutes.
Zone, which took place on March 12th, is the first level of competition that will include Crockett, LASA, and Lockhart. Seeing as how only three schools were able to participate, all advanced at this level and at District.
No awards or placements were given at Zone, and it was treated as more of a festival. Varying from year to year, competitions either begin with Zone or skip directly to District, followed by Bi-District, Area, then State.
Competition as a whole looks very different this year. All are required to wear masks both in rehearsal and for the actual performance, and no one is allowed to be in the audience for the shows outside of the judges. Normally, schools would spend the entire day at the AISD Performing Arts Center, ending late at night with an awards ceremony. This year, each school is only allowed to be present for their one-hour rehearsal slot followed by their performance.
“In the past we got to watch other school’s shows, meet with the cast and crew, go out to lunch with the school, give show baskets, and really have the comradery of a friendly competition. This year, all of that was stolen by the pandemic. It was a cold, separate competition that made me feel even more isolated from those not in our cast and crew. We didn’t get to stay for awards and critiques, we didn’t get to clap for the other schools, high five them and congratulate them. We never even got to meet the other school, and that made it really hard to share the joy of doing what we all love and went there to do,” said senior Ileanna Villalobos.
The next level of competition is District, held on March 23 just after spring break. Usually competition is held before spring break with a few weeks between the next level, but Bi-District was held just two days later on the 25.
Last season, Crockett placed second in District, and would have gone to Bi-District had the season not been cut short due to COVID-19.
In this year’s District competition, Crockett placed third with Homerstad and freshman Lex Hawbecker awarded All Star Cast, and senior Anthony winning Best Tech out of all of the schools.
Neuendorff had an important role in the success of the show.
Over spring break, senior Kade Reyes who worked on sound for WIT could no longer appear in-person, so Neuendorff was tasked with learning how to perform sound cues while simultaneously controlling the colored lights on stage, also known as “specials.” (They help create ambiance in scenes and special effects.)
Junior Joshua Sendgikoski faced similar challenges. It was the first time in about four years that he had designed the lighting for a show all by himself.
“WIT was challenging for me and a great learning experience,” said Sendgikoski.
Yet another student of tech director Michelle Ferrier had to step into an unfamiliar role. Villalobos took on the crucial role of Vivian’s professor, E.M. Ashford.
Actors were in short supply this year, and much of the cast consisted of those who had never acted before. Hawbecker is new to theatre as a whole, Coral Seuss is a freshman with some theatre experience, and junior Ethan Vargas switched over from tech.
Traditionally, auditions for OAP are held right before winter break. However, due to the challenges of finding a show with a small cast to fit their initial group of seven actors, the process was delayed. The week of snow and power outages cut an additional two weeks out of the rehearsal schedule.
This was also the first time many of the actors had been able to work in-person with a new director, no less. When asked about how that felt, Villalobos responded, “I think he really connected and respected us and did his best to show that to every single person on the cast and crew.”
Actors feel that if they could have had more time to rehearse and spend time building the character relationships and archs, as well as the story arch, the show would have been more successful.
Crockett’s competition streak ended at Bi-District after a long week of early morning performances and rehearsals.
They placed fourth out of six schools at a level where only two schools advance, those schools being Hendrickson and Lockhart this year.
Homerstad won All Star Cast again, and Hawbecker was awarded Honorable Mention All Star Cast.
However, WIT isn’t dead yet. Crockett Theatre has been approved to put on a small community showcase for an audience of 25, and the students expressed excitement to finally have an audience and display their talent and hard work to family.
“I am immensely proud of your performances because I saw each and every one of you grow in this process. Students with experience got better, and students with no experience are now seasoned UIL veterans. I could not have asked for more than that from this year. In spite of all our obstacles, we were one tighter performance away from region alternate,” expressed Raymond Wortel, director of the show.
So what’s next for Crockett Theatre? Well, those who did not participate in UIL OAP will be putting on their virtual show A Doll’s House, directed by Mark Fowler, which will be found on the official YouTube page when the performance date is determined.
Additionally, Wortel expresses his desire to put on a cabaret: a collection of numbers from different musicals. He feels that doing something musical-related this year would be beneficial, and it would give actors a chance to provide a variety of entertainment in the form of solos, duets and group numbers.
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