Forty-four students from Waunakee High School spent the last two months rehearsing and preparing for the opportunity to perform on the State High School Theater Festival Stage which, for the first time ever, was held at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee the weekend before Thanksgiving.
The ultimate goal is to perform at State and earn the Critics’ Choice Award. To reach this goal, a school has to be outstanding. The three judges have to be very impressed. The cast and crew of this year’s play, “The Whole Shebang,” was so impressive that the audience of over 500 high school students gave the group three standing ovations (two of them coming within the play).
This year’s play was about a high school theater director who goes crazy as a result of hosting a district theater festival where two schools are doing the play, “Hamlet.” It was a very physical farce that involved a couple of chase scenes through the house of the auditorium, numerous moments of stage violence and plenty of challenging comic timing.
The judges were very impressed with how realistic the stage violence was. Some of the comments included; “the comedy fights were well executed,” “Great physical slaps and falls,” and “great action.”
In addition the judges were delighted with the comic timing and how well the cast played off the audience. “Our cast did an excellent job of giving the audience a chance to applaud or laugh if they were so moved. This is tough for young actors to do because it can really have a negative effect on the pacing and timing of a show. It is also something that is very difficult to rehearse without an audience,” according to director Rick Braun. One judge commented, “the cast did well listening to the audience.”
The audience’s reactions and participation actually added close to three minutes of additional time to the play. It also added to the success of the performance. When the show was over, the audience was very noisy in its appreciation and the final standing ovation was joyous.
The feedback from the audience alone was welcomed but the announcement that the judges awarded the cast and crew with the coveted Critics’ Choice Award was the ultimate highlight.
In addition to the Critics’ Choice Award, the students received many great compliments for their efforts. Directors and students from other top notch went out of their way to congratulate the Waunakee troupe. One director from a neighboring school said that “The Whole Shebang” was a great end to the weekend.
They also earned five additional awards. The first was an Ensemble Acting Award given to the entire cast and crew for demonstrating teamwork and cooperation among the troupe while telling their story. The directors, Rick Braun and Beth Crook along with student directors, Reece Adler (Understudy), Caden Collins (Understudy), Zach Curton and Emma Maas also earned the Director’s Award.
In addition to the ensemble acting award, three students earned special recognition with Individual Acting Awards. Senior Olivia Foght (two-time winner) joined two juniors, Allison Horvatin and Allison Smith in earning this honor bringing Waunakee’s total to 50 individuals so honored in the last 31 years. Seniors Victoria McKellar and Cody Miller and Sophomore Zach Grasee were also nominated for individual acting awards as well.
Directors, Rick Braun and Beth Crook, were extremely proud of the entire cast and crew for their performance on the state stage. Braun commented that “the strength of this year’s group was that they never quit working to improve the show. We were making adjustments right up to the end and nothing threw them off. They were truly committed to creating an excellent show. Once again, this year’s show will go down as another solid memorable show in a long tradition of success.”