Middle School Performing Arts teacher David Lussier and his students received a superior rating, the highest level awarded, at the North Carolina Theatre Conference (NCTC) Regional Middle School Play Festival after performing Kendra Thomas’ The Struggles in Stewart Theater at North Carolina State University on March 19.
In addition to a superior rating, the O’Neal Players also received Excellence in Ensemble Acting where only one award was given. Mr. Lussier himself received Excellence in Directing. Seventh-grade student Caydence Dick was recognized for Excellence in Acting. Eighth-grade student Caitlyn Blocklinger received one of the two Outstanding Achievement in Acting awards.
Behind the scenes, sixth-grade student Madelyn Wicks was recognized for costume design. Seventh graders Covey Gibbons and Kaylee Hammond won the sound and light design award. The tech crew was also recognized. They are: Stage Manager Kennedy Hardee (7), Prop Master Molly Sundborg (7), running crew – Mason Wicks (6), Paige Greytak (8) and Ryan Ulitenok (6).
“When I went searching for a show that would match the skill of our middle school actors, I knew that The Struggles was it,” says director David Lussier. “I believed they would understand the depth and empathy of the story. After many hours of rehearsal and working on all the fine details, the cast and crew delivered the story in a very powerful and compelling way. The audience at the festival was captivated, you could of heard a pin drop as they say. When the last spotlight faded out, the entire theater erupted into applause. I was so proud of all they have done and will continue to do in the performing arts at O’Neal.”
O’Neal Players were recently given the opportunity to zoom with Kendra Thomas, author of this award-winning drama that centers around a young girl named Megan with a focus on how she overcomes learning obstacles associated with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Her struggles become personified in a dream-like world giving viewers the opportunity to have a realistic look at the challenge of being a student with learning differences. The middle school actors and crew have taken this story and made it powerful and moving 35-minute performance.
Members of the cast are: Caitlyn Blocklinger, Abigail Cabanillas, Caydence Dick, Clara Coman, Hannah Wilcox, Isla Riggsbee, Harper Hairston and Callie McHarney.
Members of the crew are: Kennedy Hardee, Covey Gibbons, Kaylee Hammond, Madelyn Wicks, Molly Sundborg, Paige Greytak, Ryan Ulitenok, Mason Wicks and Director David Lussier.
This year, nearly 350 students from 15 schools are performing 18 plays at 2 regional sites across the state.
Participating schools travel to their regional festival sites with theatrical sets, costumes and props. Each show loads in to a 10’x10’ backstage area. When their time comes, each school has 45 minutes to set up, perform the play, and clear the stage. Following their performance, students receive feedback from professional actors and directors with Broadway and Hollywood credits. Awards are given for acting, design, technical craft, ensemble work, and festival spirit.
“We are proud of how the NCTC Middle School Play Festival embraces a spirit of community. Students and teachers have the opportunity to meet their peers, learn from one another, and celebrate each other’s work. After two years without an in-person Middle School Play Festival, we were ready to be energized and inspired by the hard work and creativity of these students!” said NCTC Executive Director Angie Hays.