I was one of the adjudicators at the High School Play Festival last weekend, where me and my buddy Dan watched 12 high school plays over the course of two days, and critiqued them. These kids have a 45-minute time slot to get their set in place, do their show, and clear the stage, and we judge them on their acting, the use of the space, the directing, all that jazz. We give awards to the Best Actor and Actress, a pile of Honorable Mentions, Directing awards, and two plays win the Distinguished Play award and move on to compete at the State festival (next weekend in Charlotte).
One of the plays that the local arts magnet school brought to the festival was Lone Star, a comedy about two brothers in Maynard, Texas in the late 70's. Lone Star is a very popular show, a little rough in the language department for high school, but the cuts were good and the show was tamed down nicely for the festival. There were a few interesting side notes with this show.
First, the director was revisiting the show. 21 years ago, Dr. LaBorde took Lone Star to the Festival, and cleaned up all the awards he could at State. He's retiring this year, and brought the show back with a cast that wasn't alive the last time he directed the show. And now he's going back to State with Lone Star. And the show was good. Really, really good. The lead character is Roy, a Vietnam vet who's back home in Maynard to find out that life's passed him by. The kid playing Roy got an Honorable Mention for his acting, and the kid playing his brother won Best Actor for his work.
Now the kid playing Ray, who won Best Actor, is a big kid, and I like to see a big guy get ahead. This kid lived the part like I've never seen a high school kid do. I was seriously blown away. I was even more blown away when his mom came up to me after the awards ceremony.
She goes on for a few minutes about how much this means to them, and to Stephen, and his dad tells me how much he learned just by watching the shows this weekend and listening to the critiques, because he doesn't really know a whole lot about theatre, that kinda thing. Then his mom drops this one on me.
"When he was younger we never dreamed this was possible."
I ask what she means, and she tells me that this kid was sent to remedial speech classes in elementary school because he was completely incomprehensible to anyone but her, and his speech therapist worked with him for several years before he could really communicate with the outside world. And now he's just won Best Actor at a theatre festival.
"Fax a copy of that award to his speech teacher, she would really want to know."
And that's just cool. That this kid, who couldn't even speak intelligibly when he started school could go far enough to win an award for acting.