A George Mason High School (GMHS) theatre ensemble of 10 students, and two primary actors, with direction from the GMHS theatre teacher, Shawn Northrip, received 2nd Place at the local VHSL Theatre competition and will be progressing on to the Regional VHSL Competition.
They performed the play “Nexus,” by Daniel Mohlman, a friend of Mr. Northrip, and were judged on three main components: acting, ensemble, and taking of direction. The GMHS team received a total of 289 points, tying with the “1st Place” team from Clarke County High School, yet received “2nd Place,” for undisclosed reasons.
The GMHS team was successful during the competition, and Mr. Northrip was very pleased with his team’s work.
“We were very well rounded,” said Northrip. “We did well in everything except for projection, something that we will focus on as a key weapon at Regionals, which will take place on November 12.”
“The two leads, Austin Yoder and Annie Parnell, have such an amazing chemistry and dynamic,” said Rachel Skomra, a senior and ensemble cast member. “They’re so amazing to watch because they suit each other so well and their chemistry is what, I think, sets us apart from the other plays and will continue to do so.”
“Our play was very well rounded in all the categories, and we acted very well; projection is the only category we didn’t receive a superior ranking in” said senior and co-star of Nexus Austin Yoder, who is participating for his 2nd year in the VHSL Theatre Competition. “This was difficult though, because our play was very intimate and personal, and we had to combine intimacy, and being loud (projecting).”
The team had only three weeks to prepare for the 35 minute play, which consisted of 42 pages of dialogue for the two lead actors, yet according to Yoder, was a lot easier than last year because of how small and intimate the production was.
The GMHS team has come a long way in the last five consecutive years of competing at the VHSL Theatre Competition.
“The competition used to be a part of the IB Theatre Curriculum, but now it is optional which means [we have] a much smaller group,” said Northrip. “The advantage of which is that I no longer have to do a show with 30 people in it, which allows the two perfect actors (Yoder and Parnell) to perform without limits, and gives me more room to direct.”
Northrip, realizing that “Nexus” did not have directions for an ensemble cast, added in choreography for the 10 person team to act as the set, which wouldn’t have worked with a large cast.
This paid off – the VHSL Competition bestowed a brand new award on the GMHS team for ensemble, despite “Nexus” not designating a role for the ensemble cast.
“Last year we wrote the play, and the judges said ‘we wish we had recommendation to give you for the playwright.’” said Northrip. “This year we wrote the ensemble part and they gave us [an award] called ‘All Festival Cast Best Ensemble.’”
“We have all worked together before, both in our plays this year and last year and in classes so working together is nothing new, and I’m hopeful that we’ll do well [at Regionals].” said Skomra. “Yet the outcome of Regionals will be indicative of how well we do in these next few weeks, and what we leave on the stage after our time is up.”
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