OAP advances to bi-district in UIL competition


Directors Celeste Schneider (middle), John Alonso (left) and John Conner (right) pose with the advancing play trophy.

Claire Lawrence, Opinions Editor

Bright lights illuminate the theater. Sharp and contrasting shadows are casted on the faces and bodies of actors standing on stage. It’s the start of a show that will hopefully take these talented students farther along the road of something great.

On Tuesday OAP theatre advanced to bi-district with their outstanding performance of Archipelago. This Friday, they will take the stage yet again in Smithson Valley to hopefully knock the judges off their feet, and continue down the road of competition.

“It’s super exciting,” director Celeste Schneider said. “I’m really proud of them and truly honored and humbled. I can’t believe that my first year out we advance. It shows what awesome kids we have here at Vandegrift.”

When awards at the first round of competition were called out, tears of joy and laughter spilled from the cast and crew. Five students were awarded. Sophomore Emma Alvarez-Roth received Outstanding Technician, seniors Jack Rosenblatt and Madison Woodrom were awarded in All-Star Cast, and senior Corbin King and junior Grace Hedges were given Honorable Mention All-Star cast.

“As soon as I got on stage, it seemed like the lights around everywhere else kind of dimmed out and all I could see was my cast sitting in the crowd applauding,” Rosenblatt said. “That award the other cast members and I got is nothing without the help of every single one of the cast and crew members. This is very much ‘our’ award.”

In preparation for the upcoming round, the students and directors are getting in as much work as possible. Going over reviews from the previous competition, improving on fundamental factors and getting plenty of sleep are all things the cast and crew members are taking part in.

“As far as preparing goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guys are playing basketball to clear their heads,” Woodrom said. “Personally, I have a playlist that really helps me get in the mindset to perform. I’m also trying to get as much sleep as I can, despite all the long days we’ve been having.”

With the notes and criticism the show received from the first round of competition, the cast and crew have two days prior to bi-district to continue to work on the show and attempt to fill the gaps and make the message even stronger.

“We are really building on everything and digging deeper for emotion and making the show as good as it can be,” Hedges said. “ We are also trying to incorporate that [the judges notes] into the show while still keeping the heart of what we have worked on.”

Theatre UIL competition, like any other competition, gets harder the farther along shows advance. That means the schools students will be competing against are also seen with groundbreaking plays, making the nerves higher and the suspension tighter. The judging is also different, basing their scores on personal opinions rather than quality.

“A judge might place us lower in the ranking if he or she doesn’t like the time period the show was set in, for example,” Woodrom said. “Our judges are human beings with human biases. It’s entirely subjective. That’s why it’s such a big deal that we made it past the first round at all.”

This is Schneider’s first year working with this group of students and other directors, including John Conner and John Alonso. Students, like Rosenblatt and Hedges, believe she is doing a phenomenal job.

“It’s been the best experience working with her as a director,” Rosenblatt said. “She allows us to pace ourselves but also pushes us to a point of vulnerability that I didn’t know I could get to. It’s her first year here, and she’s killing it.”

There has also been outside help from organizations, such as the Theatre Booster Club, that have supported the students and directors throughout the entire process.

“Our booster club is full of rockstars,” Schneider said. “They have made this possible for us and have worked tirelessly to help us. We couldn’t thank them enough.”

As students pack up their set, costumes, and luggage, the excitement and thrill of continuing to the next round begins to come in at full swing. The cast and crew are looking forward to another amazing experience.

“The students have been amazing,” Schneider said. “They worked so hard to dig deeper and just spent time together. I think we have a lot of people who have gotten a lot closer throughout this process and I’m so very proud of them.”