The Cavalier Theater in Jefferson Forest was a historic success in the Virginia High School League Drama Competition on December 11.
The VHSL Theater Competition annually brings together high school theater companies from across the Commonwealth of Nations. Each school presents a different play, which should last 35 minutes or less. Based on the number of entries, the competitions are divided into several different “classes” of schools of comparable size, which compete with each other for victory. Jefferson Forest competed with three other Class 4 schools: Lafayette, Dominion and Smithfield. The Cavalier Theater won the award with a 35-minute one-act version of Shakespeare’s original five-act play, “The Comedy of Mistakes.”
The victory marked a “three peat” for Jefferson Forest in the VHSL competition.
This year was JF’s third consecutive state championship victory, said Spencer White, director of the Cavalier Theater. .
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“Statewide there are four distributed, and they all went to us. Usually what you see might be two from one school, then one from another school and one from another school, ”said Spencer White, director and teacher of the Cavalier Theater, of the best actor awards.
Spencer, who taught acting at JF with his wife, Niki White, for 12 years, said that while the Cavalier Theater tackles a variety of genres, comedy and light plays are what he thinks are the strong points. the company. Comedies are therefore generally chosen for performances given at the state competition.
This year, having already won the State Championship two years in a row, the theater company decided to try something new for the competition: performing a condensed version of a William Shakespeare comedy.
“We just felt like we wanted to do something in this third year that we thought we could do better because when you’ve had two wins in a row it’s time to take a risk,” said Spencer White. “What I was thinking, maybe let’s pick something that we do, that maybe a lot of people here don’t, and that’s Shakespeare.”
The theater class normally performs a full-length Shakespeare play every two years or so, Spencer White said. Earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cavalier Theater performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” outdoors. Considering that most of the actors who entered this year’s VHSL competition had played Shakespeare at least once before, Spencer White believed everyone was up for the new challenge.
Niki White took “Comedy of Mistakes” and turned it into a one-act play to fit the parameters of the competition. It was the first time that she had performed such a task with a Shakespeare play.
To keep the piece down, Niki White said she mainly focused on removing the repetitive parts and shortening the long monologues while keeping the story clear.
“It’s trial and error,” Niki White said of the process.
With the script in hand, after about eight to ten drafts of trimming and editing, rehearsals began in August.
High school juniors and seniors typically go to the state pageant, and a company of 21 actors from Jefferson Forest competed in this year’s VHSL. Of those 21, four received the Outstanding Actor Award, a huge surprise and honor for the students and their school, according to White and the four winning actors, Prentiss Patrick-Carter, Sky Evans, Sara Lynn Loucks and Micah Willis. .
“I was very surprised. I hadn’t won a single award, or even got an honorable mention before this competition, so when they said my name, I kind of shrugged and said: ” What is going on ? Willis, a junior who played the roles of the twins both named Dromio, said. “Everyone starts hitting me on the back like ‘Micah, take the stage. It’s your turn ‘, and I’m like’ I don’t know what’s going on. ‘”
The surprises did not end there.
“I was like, ‘Oh, there’s our two for school. There’s no way we’re going to get a third. And then,’ There’s no way to get a fourth. ‘, and yet… ”said Willis.
All four of the award-winning actors said one of the best parts of the experience and individual recognition is sharing the moment together, with each other and with the rest of their class.
“We had this big group hug on stage, and I was like, ‘This looks like a movie,'” said Willis.
Prentiss senior Patrick-Carter, who has worked at the Cavalier Theater since seventh grade and played Antipholus of Ephesus, won an Outstanding Actor Award at last year’s VHSL competition and won recognition a second time this year. More than his individual recognition, said Patrick-Carter, watching the whole ensemble was the highlight of the experience.
“That’s what really matters to us as a cast. I guess the best actor awards are more of the icing on the cake, if you will. It’s nice to get individual recognition, especially from judges who are experienced professionals, ”he said.
Loucks, a junior who started with the Cavalier Theater in sixth grade, received an honorable mention in the pre-state regional competition this year. For her first state-level competition, Loucks, who played Adriana, said she was happy to be a part of the experience.
“I was just, at the time, very grateful,” she said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I think we’re all very excited to start over [next year]. “
Senior Sky Evans, who also competed at VHSL last year and performed Antipholus of Syracuse this year, was happy the hard work was recognized.
“It really makes me happy about all the hard work I’ve put into the show because it shows that the judges recognize when something goes really well after you’ve put so much effort into something,” did he declare.
Spencer White said he was proud of the theater’s performance this year in particular.
“I was like, ‘Let’s shoot for the moon, take a risk and see how it works.’ It paid off and they did a very, very good job, ”said Spencer White. “They deserve to be proud.