Once Upon a Playground wins First place in One Acts Competition

What are the One Acts?

The One Acts is a theater competition amongst different high schools, where each school performs a thirty minute play or excerpt of a play. The plays are scored by a panel of judges, advancing the first and second place schools to the next level, from Districts, to Regionals, then States. Booker T’s district competitors are Lakeland, Tabb, and York.

What was Booker T’s play about?

Once Upon a Playground by Jack Frackles is about, in a simpler term, bullying. A group of girls on a playground outcast a girl because of her funny nose. Throughout the play, each of the bullies express their inner fears of being different and what they’re willing to do to stay under the radar of scrutiny from their peers.

What message were you hoping to convey with this play? 

Once Upon a Playground shines a light on the cruelty of youth and what we as people will do and say to others if it means it won’t happen to us. The play also discusses the importance of loving ourselves for our flaws and differences.

What was your role in the One Acts? 

There were originally ten roles in the play, but due to a lack of cast members, many of the roles were combined with another or cut out entirely. Despite having to work twice as hard, each actor did his/her best to interpret their character(s) and put on the best show they could.

The Girl, also known as Jill or “Girl with the Funny Nose”, and performed by Jonai Smith, is the main character. She wants nothing more than to play with the other girls on the playground, but her naïve hope leaves her prey to the girls bullying.

Wanda Bun, a tall girl and the leader of the bullies, her insecurity about her height stems from ongoing tension between her, her mother, and her supposedly perfect sister. This role was performed by Nicole Evans.

Tootie Shoe is a thin, tiny girl, performed by Isabella Pinto, who follows Wanda Bun around. She gets sick often and spends much of her time indoors, fearing the day she’ll be sick for too long and her friends will forget her forever.

Forda Moore is a fat girl with a sense of humor. Fordam played by Chloe Morton, is insecure about her weight and how much she eats, but doesn’t wish to be thin; instead, wishes that everyone else was fat so they could all be miserable together.

Phoebe Dive, a girl with terrible eyesight but refuses to wear her glasses because they make her look weird was performed by Chanel Banks.

Georgie is a boy who loves to dream and tell stories. These stories, however, tend to be exaggerated and based on an overactive imagination. His compulsive lies stem from his desire to appear cool and attempt to fit in. This role was performed by Deonate Smith.

The Boy, also known as Johnny or “Boy with the Funny Nose”, is the counterpart to The Girl. His appearance at the end of the play shows The Girl that it’s okay to be different and she isn’t any less beautiful because of her funny nose.

Directors of the play were S. Roundtree and M. Chuma.

Tech crew included Riley Davis-Pope and Aaron Herbert.

What made you interested in participating in the One Acts?

“Well, for one, I don’t have anything else to do after school, but I also joined because of recent years of experience. I’ve participated in the One Acts since freshmen year. Plus I like acting.” – Chloe M.

Participants in the One Acts involved people who have competed in it previously, people who were taking the theater class, and a select few who, even without little to no acting experience, were persuaded into joining.

“I became interested in the One Acts because I love teamwork, the art of acting, and learning about society in a complex way.” – Deonate S.

Describe your experience while preparing for competition

Although the chorus room is typically used for theater activities, Roundtree moved practices to his dance studio to get away from the distractions of the other after school sports and clubs. A typical rehearsal involved studying lines in the beginning then working on blocking* and characterization for the decided scenes that day. At the end of rehearsal, the actors took home their hastily note scribbled scripts to work on what they’ve learned.

“Practice was horrible but fun” – Nicole E.

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In between the incessant lectures from the directors and reruns of the same scenes, theater rehearsal  included some down time that allowed the cast members to relax and joke around.

*Blocking is the theatrical term for the arrangement of actors on a set.

Describe your experience during the competition

The One Acts competition kicks off in Booker T’s auditorium with introductions done by Tonya Shells. The order of the performances is preset by the judges; while one school prepares their set, the other three sit in their designated sections in the audience. After two schools have performed their pieces, there is a ten minute intermission. Booker T. was the third school to go, thus performing Once Upon a Playground immediately after intermission.

“It was exciting and nerve-wracking.” – Deonate S.

It was a simple set: two park benches and a few cubes hiding away necessary props, all of which painted colorfully to resemble a playground. Along with the casts vibrant costumes and child like banter, the illusion of children playing on a playground presented itself perfectly.

What were the results of the competition?

Booker T. won first place and Tabb in second place, both schools going on to Warrenton, VA for Regionals a week later. Booker T. placed fifth at Regionals.

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What are your hopes for next years competition?

“We’ve never made it past Regionals. Next year is my senior year, so I definitely want to try and make to States.”

Mr. Roundtree and a few other participants are already making plans for next years One Acts, but it will require a larger cast. With almost half the theater group graduating this year it’s no doubt they are on the search for potential actors and a tech crew.

“You don’t need experience in acting, – at least three of our people had no concept of theater when they joined – you just need a dedication for it.” – S. Roundtree.

 

 

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