One act play strives for a winning performance

Amanda Weston

     On stages across the state a controversial trial takes place, involving charitable fraud, love and battles with one’s conscience. The trial is not a legal hearing however, but instead a performance by the cast of this year’s UIL One Act play.

     Cedar Park High School participates in many UIL competitions and events, including sports, academics, choir and theatre. The cast of the UIL One Act play has been hard at work preparing for the first stage of the competition which was held March 30 at Georgetown Eastview High School. Students auditioned for the production in the winter and rehearsed three to four times a week in preparation, memorizing lines, working on blocking and getting to know their fellow actors.

     “The audition process was stressful because I was auditioning against my friends.” Courtney Anthony, junior, said. “But I love growing as an actor and the friendships. I’ve been an alternate for two years, and this is my first year in the show. I love theatre and the UIL experience.”

     In the UIL one act play competition theatre students present an 18-40 minute play at zone, district, area, region and state levels. As well as awarding and scoring the plays themselves, individual cast members are recognized with awards as well, such as the best actor and actress award. After each performance the judge critiques each school’s performance to help them improve for the next stage.

     This year’s play is Michael J. Chepiga’s Getting and Spending, which tells the story of an investment banker who has been charged with insider trading but really has collected the money for charity. She tries to get lawyer Richard O’Neill, a renowned defense attorney, to defend her. However he has fled the legal system and chosen to live in a monastery, and Victoria must convince him to leave the life of a monk to defend her. The play also features monks caught between prayer and stocks, a sarcastic and ill-humored judge and an ambitious prosecuting attorney. The play features seniors Zachary Soza as O’Neill, Scott Hasting as Brother Alfred and Natalie Herzig as Victoria; and juniors Jordan Fogle as Victoria’s friend Charles, Madison Piner as prosecuting attorney Elizabeth Panelli, Courtney Anthony as Victoria’s mother Mary and Donna Noorbakhsh as the judge. Alternates for the cast are Kohl Wilson, senior, juniors Ada Zhang, Urvashi Mitbander and Andrew Butler, and Zach Hawks, freshman.

     “The play is very modern, which we haven’t done in a few years.” Jerry Blake, theatre director, said. “It’s timely and features investment fraud, and the characters are very faceted with many layers. It focuses on dramatic action and the characters’ objectives.”

     The cast has a limited amount of time to perform their play, which Blake says makes it difficult to convey characters physically and vocally. However, she says that the cast is very talented and that they work hard and contribute ideas to improve the show. This year’s cast is significantly smaller than previous years, which Blake says presents its own challenges and advantages.

     “On one hand, with a smaller group of individuals they can get more direction,” Blake said. “On the other hand, there can be no weak links because everyone stands out more.” There’s always tons to work on. The cast is absolutely amazing and they genuinely care about each other.”

     Competing at the UIL One-Act play competition is a new experience for some cast members, but they say that it is a wonderful experience.

     “I’ve wanted to do OAP since my first year in high school,” Scott Hasting, senior, said. “I thought it would be a great experience to help me grow my acting abilities.” The time commitment is demanding, but I’m excited about getting to perform and that anticipation from the judges to see if you move on. My favorite character would be my own quirky 65-year-old monk [Brother Alfred]. He’s the comic relief in the play.”

     While for some actors this is their first year performing on the UIL stage, others are veterans and have been participating in theatre competitions for years.

     “I’ve been competing since sixth grade,” Donna Noorbakhsh, junior, said. “I’ve always loved dramas and I love [my character] Judge O’Keefe. She’s got a very sarcastic humor which is fun, and she’s very passionate about law. I love the play’s ending. It’s the opposite of what you would expect and I think the audience will be shocked. But I also love going to cabin, which is this huge three-day bonding trip in the spring in New Braunfels. We rehearse non-stop, build character, bond and come back a million times better than before. I love UIL. All the cast members are like family.”

     The cast of Getting and Spending held their first public performance on March 26 in the CPHS Performing Arts Center. The PAC will also be hosting the area competition on April 9. CPHS wishes the cast the best of luck and hopes to see them at the state competition later this year.