There’s a noticeable absence of popcorn and cheerleaders; there are no balls, bats or shoulder pads to be seen. Instead, you’ll find a couple thousand high school students tucked into obscure corners on a university campus reviewing Shakespeare, Rodgers & Hammerstein or a speech about a costume design. You’ll find students, giddy with excitement, waiting for a one-act to begin in one theater. In another, students and teachers alike are seated quietly experiencing a cathartic moment after a particularly powerful performance.
Theater students do compete; not often, just a few times a year, but it is a competition in every sense of the word. Randolph students begin their preparation early, selecting monologues, songs and scenes with which they’ll compete. These pieces are woven into the course curriculum and become lessons in characterization, play analysis and historical research. Then, early in November, competition season begins.
District Trumbauer kicks off the season, followed just weeks later by the state Trumbauer competition, held this year at Troy University. Students earning a superior at district, qualify to compete at the state level. With only a couple of weeks between district and state there’s a lot of hard work to be done in a short amount of time. Sooner than we like, we are boarding a bus with our friends from St. John Paul II and heading south.
This year’s state competition began on Friday, December 5. After a night in the hotel, and breakfast, we loaded up the bus for the short ride to Troy. Students broke into groups, got familiar with the campus and were off to perform. Randolph students were entered in 18 different events, including their Studio Theater one-act play. We had many students entered in the Novice category, indicating that this was their first trip to Trumbauer. Others were competing at their 4th, and last, Trumbauer.
The varsity students supported and cheered on their younger cohorts. The novices followed the varsity kids in awe of the ease with which they found their assigned rooms and performed. All students not involved in the one-act performance sat anxiously in the audience in support of their friends.
At the awards ceremony, students huddled together in anticipation. When the announcers came to a category in which a Randolph student was entered, the entire group held hands in one continuous chain, the last person holding The Lobster in their free hand; a Randolph tradition, or maybe superstition?
“Sitting there, in anticipation, you could feel the love and support of everyone around you. It’s a special bond,” said Lauren Richardson ’16.
The Lobster became our mascot through his involvement in one of our one-acts, What You Will, in the fall of 2005. I can't tell you anything more than that. The “story of the lobster” is revealed on opening night in our cast/crew circle. The kids are sworn to secrecy.
Theater kids spend so much time together that they truly become a family. Trips become “family vacations” and offer a chance to bond, to provide support, and to teach and learn from one another. At the end of the day “it’s not about the competition, it’s about the people you bond with over a shared love of the arts. We really don’t want the experience to end,” said Sarah Harbaugh, ’15.
Yes, theater does have competitions and we cherish them, but not for the trophies and plaques; for the chance to spend time together away from the regulated school day. Yes, it’s great to win, but it’s even better to have deep philosophical discussions with your peers and teachers on the bus, in the hotel, and maybe in one of those obscure corners.
And yet, since this was a competition, you may wonder, "How did our drama team do?" Here are the 2014 State Trumbauer results:
We were first place in Studio Theater! Sarah Harbaugh was named to the Studio Theater All-Star Cast. Blake Dang was Best Actor. Joy Wood was Best Supporting Actress.
Coner McFarlin, 3rd Place, Sound Design Novice
Seth Watring & Cole Cooper, 1st Place, Duet Classical Comedic, Varsity
I took a larger group to State than I had in the past because of a change to the schedule, which allowed me to teach Theater II in the fall. All 21 of the students who went to State received ratings of either Excellent or Superior, as follows.
Payton Alongi & Rachel Rezabek, Duet Contemporary Classical, Novice
Liz Sheible, Solo Musical, Novice
Sarah Harbaugh & Lauren Richardson, Duet Musical, Varsity
Deanna Dailey and Haley Townsend, Duet Contemporary Comedic, Novice
Fiona Campbell, Costume Design for The Turn of the Screw, Novice
Holland & Faith Meier, Duet Contemporary Dramatic, Novice
Deanna Dailey, Solo Pantomime, Novice
Bentley League, Solo Musical Comedic, Novice
Alexa Nunn & Bentley League, Duet Contemporary Comedic, Novice
Drew Honeycutt, Solo Contemporary Comedic, Novice
Joy Wood & Blake Dang, Duet Contemporary Dramatic, Varsity
Cole Cooper, Solo Contemporary Comedic, Novice
Sarahkate Marsden, Solo Contemporary Dramatic, Novice
Drew Honeycutt & Meghan Matje, Duet Contemporary Comedic, Novice
Sarahkate Marsden, Solo Classical Comedic, Novice
Seth Watring & Joy Wood, Duet Musical, Varsity