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One Play, One Shot, One Act!--Theatre Teams Shine in Showbiz

The One-Act team prepares in their warm up room at Thomas Dale High School. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emily Southern--Eagle Staff Writer

When one chants "break a leg" at a competition, some may turn their heads in astonishment, but for the Franklin County theatre teams, that's just the kind of luck they hope to hear.

Mary Hannah Wheeler is the head director, teacher and sponsor of all things drama production on campus. At any given time, Wheeler has multiple irons in the drama fire: three levels of theatre class along with leading after school theatre practices for community performances as well as preparation for the One-Act Drama Competition.

This program is a competitive 30 minute performance that is rigorously evaluated in front of a group of judges. The scores are based on multiple attributes.

“Judges have a rubric that they use to evaluate if we are meeting all the requirements, [including] volume, cheating out (facing body outward when onstage), ensemble effect (how well things are said in unison), etc.,” stated Junior Heidi Eames.

The One-Act team competes alongside other teams at sectionals first and then goes to regionals. During Covid, their performances were moved online.

“In 2020 we were 2nd at sectionals and 4th at regionals. In 2021 because of Covid we only had a virtual regional competition (no sectionals) and we placed 5th out of 9 teams. This year (2022) at sectionals we placed 1st,” Wheeler explained.

The team went on to place 3rd place at regionals. Success like this takes considerable practice.

“We have been preparing for the competition by practicing as much as possible. We have practice every week that we are in school and we have it at least 4 days a week,” stated Hayzlett.

When One-Act season ends, the team switches their script and begins imagining and preparing for the spring musical.

“In the spring we do musicals. The musical we have decided to do [this year] is Mamma Mia,” Hayzlett revealed. “It's about an independent hotelier in the Greek islands that is preparing for her daughter's wedding with the help of her two old friends. Meanwhile Sophie, her daughter and the spirited bride, has a plan. She secretly invites three men from her mother's past in hope of meeting her real father and having him escort her down the aisle on her big day."

Although there are a lot of dedicated students on the drama production team who make these performances possible, few are seeking careers in theater.

“Many of the students in the theatre department perform and participate as a hobby. I only have 1-2 students that are truly interested in performing for a living,” said Wheeler.

The difficulty of making a career in the entertainment industry may be partly to blame, says Eames, but there may be more to it. Some feel the drama teams do not get the recognition they deserve when they put in the same, if not more, time into their art as other school activities.

The One-Act team comes together for a group photo before heading on stage. (Courtesy Photo)

“I don’t necessarily think that [theatre] is ignored, but we definitely are not prioritized. Franklin County High School is most definitely a football school,” said Hayzlett.

Eames also agrees, but understands and is grateful for the amount of support the department does receive.

“I don't feel like FCHS prioritizes theater in the same way as football for example, but I don't blame them for that. Theater simply isn't as popular. I think the school does a lot for our department, and I am grateful for what we do have,” stated Eames.

Students who are interested in joining theatre, either on stage or behind the curtains, should contact Wheeler.

“It's a fun class with a one of a kind teacher and is open to anyone. Even if you don't think theatre is your thing, this class [and program] has so much to offer,” Eames encouraged.

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