Drama troupe ranks fourth in state

Published 12:44 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Theatre is in. So is drama, one act plays, and black box theaters.

The small, but up and coming drama troupe, the Pearl River Central High School Blue Maskers, are making their mark in Mississippi’s theater niche, with three of the students receiving a total of $66,000 in theater and communications scholarships from William Carey University. “The Blue Maskers were one of ten top drama (troupes),” said sponsor Deborah Craig, saying that the 33 participants had managed to win a total of 17 state awards.

Craig, who teaches speech and theater at the high school, was at the Pearl River Central Board of Education meeting Monday night, along with several of the students to tell the board members of their accomplishments.

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Craig said that this year the troupe had collaborated with Picayune Memorial High School for two one-act plays. “They had the stage, the lighting, everything we needed,” said Craig. “It was a wonderful collaboration that benefited all of us.”

The reason, Craig said, is that Pearl River County School District does not have a professional theater set up specifically for drama and plays. “It benefited us because it was a professional venue,” said Craig. “It had proper lighting and sound and being able to work there, gave us the experience and edge of being on a professional stage.”

For now, she said, the students can use the auditorium at the McNeill school, but she hoped that the former chapel at the recently acquired St. Michael’s campus might serve the drama troupe in the future. “I know that funds are tight,” Craig said. “But keep us in mind. The possible renovation at the McNeill auditorium could help us.”

She said that what she would really like to see happen is for the former chapel at St. Michael’s Academy to be turned in a professional theater for the Blue Maskers. “It would make a great black box theater.”

Even with limited access to professional stages — the students practice in Craig’s classroom — the teacher said the students excelled at state level. “We are one of the top drama troupes in the state,” Craig said.

She said that during the competitions at the University of Mississippi, each student acted in one-act plays, individual events, and a ten-minute play contest.

The ten-minute play contests, Craig said, were extremely challenging for the students because each of the six students from PRCHS was paired with six other students from other schools. “They have 24 hours to write, produce and act in a ten-minute play,” she said. “That is not an easy thing to do.”

Craig said she was proud of the students and their accomplishments and looked forward to another good year.

Some of the students at the board meeting and their awards include:

— Patricia Chastain won Superior Rating for a Duet

— Ricky Wormser won All Star Cast in a Ten-Minute Play

— Zack Lancaster won Best Actor in a Ten Minute Play

— Amanda Mckay won Best Actress in a Ten Minute Play

— Felicia Mitchell won Best Set Design

In addition, Lancaster, along with Corey Clutter and Dylan Stump, were each awarded a $22,000 theater and communications scholarship by William Carey University.

In other business, the board approved the resignation of lower elementary assistant teachers Martha Simmons Lower, Barbara Tillman, cafeteria workers Fallon Greenroad and Nina Goodwin and middle school math teacher Mark Hudson.

The board also approved hiring Christine Wells and Fallon Greenroad for substitute cafeteria workers, and Tiffany Burnette for substitute school nurse.

Also approved were teachers Allison Smith, Lisa Johnson, and Deana Sheffield to teach extra classes during their planning period for the second semester.