By Greg Ritchie
KENNARD – The One Act Play is part of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions where schools prepare and perform a play lasting between 18 and 40 minutes. The performances are judged at several stages, from zone, district, bi-district, area, region and state. Several area schools compete in the One Act Play (OAP), with Kennard High School students preparing to advance to the bi-district level after winning their district.
The Messenger caught up with the kids practicing in the Kennard cafeteria before the big show next week.
As the kids took their places on the stage, out-of-sight, the crew worked to make sure the lights and sound effects all added to the performance. As the play began, we met Louis de Rougemont, played by Kennard Junior Emily Farmer. A British well-born young man who sets out on adventure, Farmer plays him with wit and poise, and even a convincing English accent.
Based on the real life character of the same name, de Rougemont was actually famous for lying about most of his extravagant adventures in his life. As Farmer tells the audience at the beginning of the play, “Everything I am about to tell you is true,” as unseen spectators laugh at the statement.
Kennard teacher Emily Carden is a seven-year veteran teaching OAP and fell in love with the play and its quirkiness and ability to show the kids’ acting talents.
“The show is called ‘Shipwrecked’ and I actually discovered this play for the first time about five years ago,” Carden said. “I was really captivated and I knew it was a show I wanted to direct. It’s about a man who is very sheltered but goes out and does all these adventurous things in life. Then we start discovering a lot of it may have not been true, so it kind of leaves the audience with the decision to make, ‘Is it true, is it not?’”
Playing the lead role, Farmer has a lot of long dialogues, stage cues and talking to the audience in the play. She said there are a lot of lines to remember, but OAP has changed her life for the better.
“A lot of practice, going over it as much as I can,” Farmer said. “Repetition definitely helps. OAP has changed my life completely. I’ve grown such a sense of confidence in public speaking and just speaking to other people in general. Mentally, physically – I have changed so much because of OAP.”
Farmer’s partner on part of the journey is salty Captain Jensen, played by sophomore Harley Troy. The swashbuckling, sword carrying character looks like it must be a blast to play in front of a live audience. Playing the character may be a hoot but OAP has also helped Troy break out of her shell.
“Captain Jensen – he’s an old drunk pirate and very angry all the time. He makes people laugh sometimes, though,” Troy said. “I have definitely learned to be someone who speaks out more because my freshman year I was very reserved and quiet. This year, I feel like I’ve grown as a person being more confident in myself.”
Freshman Kimber Stack only recently joined the ensemble after moving here from South Carolina. She was surprised how big the pastures are in East Texas. Although the girls must play many different roles in the show, her favorite part is playing the little dog, Bruno.
After seeing her play both the main character’s mother and then crawling and barking to bring Bruno to life, Stack admitted OAP is an amazing thing for young people.
“I just moved here last year and this really helps me to open up and be myself,” Stack explained. “Just being around these girls helped me. To not have to close up and keep myself away from everybody. I’ve really opened up and become a more talkative person.”
Junior Madalyn Bunton is a junior but is set to graduate early next December. She plays seven different characters in the show. A third-year OAP veteran, Bunton said learning the flexibility to play so many characters has helped her off-stage, too.
“I was really shy, and when you’re a freshman, you think everyone is looking at you or judging you,” Bunton explained. “But I am a completely different person than I was – not just because you get older but theater really has changed me and it’s made me not afraid to talk to people.”
With thunder pealing and lightning flashing the stage, sometimes the people we don’t see play a big role, too. Graduating junior Mary Nesbitt keeps the lights going along with the rest of the crew. If she misses and effect or fails to put the lights where they need to go, she can ruin the show – and the competition. She said she is happiest behind the scenes.
“Oh, I love it. I did act my first year. I hated it. I don’t like being seen, I don’t like speaking. I like being in my little spot, just moving buttons,” Nesbitt laughed. “After two years I still get nervous, too. I am nervous about next week.”
The Kennard crew has already taken home recognition, including best overall performer – Emily Farmer, all-star cast – Kimber Stack, honorable mention cast – Madalyn Bunton, Harley Troy, Ryleigh Collins, Skylar Stevenson and Emerson Harrington, and all-star crew – Abigail Piotrowski.
The crew will face the next round in the OAP competition next Wednesday, Mar. 22 at Panola College in Carthage. Theater teacher Carden is confident but was still working on all the details only a trained eye can see. She encouraged young people to try theater, saying she has seen how it can change young people’s outlook on life.
“I definitely encourage anyone that has an interest to try it,” Carden said. “Even those who have no experience – because theater is one of those things where if you can just experience being a part of a theater group – it instills so much confidence in young people. And those are skills they can use in all avenues of their life in the future.”
The kids in the play are: Emily Farmer, Madalyn Bunton, Harley Troy, Kimber Stack, Emerson Harrington, Skylar Stevenson, Ryleigh Collins, Abigail Piotrowski, Mary Nesbitt, Hailey Morgan and Abigail McMinn.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]