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School rides the wave of success

Alexandra Hedrick | Picayune Item  The champs: Members of High Tide Productions drama troupe brave the sleet as they sit beneath their championship banner which has been added to that of the football team.

Alexandra Hedrick | Picayune Item
The champs: Members of High Tide Productions drama troupe brave the sleet as they sit beneath their championship banner which has been added to that of the football team.

Picayune Memorial High School’s theatre troupe, High Tide Productions (HTP), recently received the Dominic J. Cunetto Award for Best Production at the 2014 Mississippi Theatre Association State Competition, held in Vicksburg.  This is the first time the school has won the top spot for a performance at state competition.

“The award is given annually to the top theatre program in the state,” said drama teacher and play director Bill Rester. “It entitles HTP to compete at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, held during the first week in March.”

HTP competed with Alan Haehnel’s “Property Rites,” the story of a young man named Kyle Macmanus, who invests millions in an artificially intelligent sculpture. The art piece, which consists of 15 animatronic females, begins to come alive, resulting in harrowing consequences for its owner, who is trying to sell it.

“The play received high marks at the MTA Regional Drama-Fest in November,” Rester said. “Along with advancing to the state festival, cast member Taylor Danner received the award for Best Actress. The troupe received the award for Best Ensemble, as well as the award for Overall Technical Excellence. Noah Frank was named to the All-Star Cast.”

At the MTA state competition, Taylor Danner again received the award for Best Actress, and the troupe was awarded the Technical Excellence plaque. In addition to her acting awards, Taylor Danner was the recipient of the MTA College Scholarship, valued at $2,000. Daniel Mitchell, playing the role of Kyle, was named to the All-Star Cast.

“I loved that everyone together was all in our own little world – it wasn’t a play, we were living it,” Danner said. “I loved being able to play almost two characters. I was a robot, which was restrictive, but then when I became human, it was completely different.”

Mitchell, full of energy and with a love of performing, said the competition was a huge adrenaline rush for him.

“Daniel really had to hit the ground running,” Rester said. “When the lead actor moved, we filled his role with Daniel who was cast in the role of another character. His vacated position for the character was replaced by a sound guy, who was replaced by a crew member. We shuffled everyone around over a four- week period. It was almost like starting the piece from scratch.”

Mitchell said the uncertainty and the newness of the part is what pushed him so hard on stage. He said he learned his part and just enjoyed the intensity of the performance.

Now the troupe must focus on the national competition in Ala.

“This year’s SETC festival will take place in Mobile, Alabama, at the Arthur C. Outlaw Convention Center,” Rester said. “This will be HTP’s second trip to the national competition. They previously were named as Runners-Up in 2013, and performed George Brant’s Elephant’s Graveyard in Louisville, Kentucky.”

In the midst of the celebration for a stellar effort, there is concern about the practical aspects of getting to the event.

“Costs to attend the festival will run near $14,000, and will cover convention registration, travel, and hotel rooms,” said Rester.  “Now we have to raise the funds.”

If you would like to help send HTP to SETC, please contact William Rester by phone at 601-543-6316, or email at william.rester@gmail.com to see how you can contribute.