Last week, the Waxahachie High School theatre students took home third place in the UIL One-Act Play 5A state championships.
The bronze was not the only good news of recent weeks for the thespians.
During the several rounds of performing the impactful story of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” the students garnered 15 individual awards and placed first in each of the three rounds before the state championship.
The play, based on the award-winning novel written by Mark Haddon, is told from the perspective of the main character, Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy. What starts as the mystery of how his dog was murdered with a pitchfork, turns into Christopher finding his supposedly dead mother.
In the state championship, senior, Katy Wilson, was awarded honorable mention and was named to the all-star cast alongside senior, Caleb Barnett, and junior, Sam Linguist.
Linguist, who starred as Christopher, was awarded “Best Actor" in each round leading up to the state championships held in Round Rock.
For the Linguist, the recognition was a definite confidence boost.
“We all worked very hard,” Linguist explained. “This character was definitely — it was more of the character that won than myself. It was such a wonderful character to play, and just a great story and all of those things come together to make a great show.”
Though the final trophy dons a bronze medallion and not gold, Linquist said besting 228 of the 230 schools in 5A was "exciting" for the entire cast.
“Different judges, different day, different results and it’s so subjective. But we were really happy with third place,” Linguist expressed. “We were so excited. I don’t know, it was a ton of schools, so third place in anything is great in Texas. We were just a tiny bit disappointed but not really.”
As a junior, Linguist agreed this show was the most memorable and the most important story he has told. His most significant take-back from the one-act play experience was traveling with the crew and building friendships.
For Barnett — a senior who played Christopher's father, Ed Boone — the experience was momentous in his high school career.
“When it comes to one-act play, I feel very accomplished in this because we told the story to so many people and it changed lives, how people think, and how other perceive people with autism,” Barnett explained. “It was amazing to see that we got a standing ovation for our final performance at state. As soon as the curtain closed, I was bent over crying. It was so incredible.”
Longtime Waxahachie theatre director Andy Reynolds said, in his mind, the students are state champions. He said the entire experience of advancing to state was “surreal.”
He also explained that there was only a two-point difference between first and third, and Waxahachie tied for second with an Austin school, but the preference of the judges broke the tie.
“They had an incredible show. They had a whole auditorium of 1,500 people rise to their feet, and they were all crying their eyes out,” Reynolds recalled. “It was a really beautiful moment, and the students knew it. As soon as that curtain closed after they were done, they knew they told a beautiful story.”
DALLAS SUMMER MUSICALS
The theatre season continues with several more shows including the Dallas Summer Musicals (DSM) competition and two more high school performances.
Waxahachie theatre students will perform at the Dallas Summer Musicals for the seventh year in a row and complete a segment from the interactive, solve it yourself musical, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
Reynolds shared the group is nominated for 11 awards — the most ever for the school. Nominations range from stage design, best-featured actress, musical direction, stage crew, lighting and more.
Also nominated for best actor is Barnett, who plays the role of John Jasper. He admitted playing the character at first was a little out of his comfort zone, but loves every minute of it.
If voted as best actor, Barnett will earn a $10,000 scholarship and will compete nationally in New York at the Jimmy Awards. In 2016, Kaidens Maines advanced to the Jimmy Awards and won. Matthew Haught also advanced to the New York competition in 2014.
Barnett remembers the accomplishments of Maines with Dallas Summer Musicals and added that he knew he wanted that same achievement for himself, but was not as confident as he is now.
“To be DMS nominated I feel validated of me knowing that this is what I want to do. I was told a lot — the color that I am and where I come from and being called ‘gay’ and people saying ‘hey, you’re not a man.’ And doing this validates why I’m doing it, to entertain people," Barnett expressed. " I’m honored, and I just can’t wait to do it.”
Barnett’s mindset going into this musical is focusing on the character and performance as a whole. When competing in theatre, he does not perceive it as a competition.
“We have to be together for three weeks to bring this together so, why make it more competition-based than rather put on the best show, the best piece of theatre or performance that you possibly can,” Barnett explained. “And whoever they deem the best out of that let that be the result rather than me trying to be the best.”
Ever since Barnett knew about the nomination, he has practiced every night. After graduation, he will attend the University of Central Oklahoma to study musical theatre. He will also perform in two shows this summer at Casa Manana in Fort Worth
The next community show from the Waxahachie theatre is “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
The shows start at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3 — 5. On May 6, the show will begin at 2 p.m.
General admission is $10, while students and senior citizens are $7.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" will be in honor of Jennifer Stevens who has choreographed Waxahachie shows for the past 15 years. She passed unexpectedly Sunday, April 29. Donations will also be accepted to put toward a scholarship in her honor.
The final show Waxahachie theatre will perform is "Thunder on Sycamore Street." The Black box show begins at 7 p.m. May 10 and 12, and at 2 p.m. on May 13. This show has limited seating. Tickets are $5.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450