Local thespians to compete in state competition

Mladen Rudman
Alexis Bass is a student in the Fort Walton Beach High School Theatre Department production of “The Children’s Hour.” Persons or businesses can contact the Fort Walton Beach High School Theatre Department at 833-3300, ext. 1819, for information about donating to help students attend two high-profile theatre competitions in March. It will cost an estimated $500 per student per trip.

If acting was a sport, then Fort Walton Beach High School theater students would be state champions twice during one school year.

The Theatre Department’s production of “The Children’s Hour” was selected earlier this month as one of seven plays to be performed at the Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa.

In October, a one-act version of “Kosher Lutherans” produced by 12th graders won its category at the Florida Theatre Conference. The play will represent the state at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Louisville, Ky.

Both competitions happen in March, which means Viking thespians are going to be very busy in the New Year. Theatre education teacher Christa Whittaker expects an intense schedule of preparation and practice the next several months, but has no doubt her directors, actors, set builders, and stage crew can handle it.

“These kids are so good to each other — so supportive and encouraging — and they have spent so much time together and with me that we are really like a family,” Whittaker said in an email.

It’s going to cost about $500 per student per trip to make the competitions, which means the theatre students will have to raise funds in addition to rehearsing doubly hard. But, Whittaker hopes that businesses and individuals will offset some of the fundraising by making donations.

Eight students and four chaperones are expected to go to the Kentucky event, which is March 6-9. At least 30 students and 6 chaperones will be heading to Tampa March 19 through 23.

Seventeen-year-old senior Alexis Bass of Destin is going to Tampa and Louisville. She spoke about her role in “Kosher Lutherans,” a comedy.

To become the character Martha, Bass had to imagine what it was like being married, having a husband, and then facing the prospect of divorce because the couple’s outwardly perfect marriage wasn’t anything of the sort.

Bass said she had been entranced by the idea of acting for a long time before giving it a try her senior year.

“You dream about it, but you never think it’s going to happen,” she said.

Alex Shaw, 18, a senior from Destin, will be the lead director for “The Children’s Hour,” a play that demands actors generate “raw emotions” on the stage. She’ll guide the cast at the Florida State Thespian Festival.

“The play itself, it’s hard material to cover,” said Shaw. “It’s very dark. It’s not a happy ending.”

But, there’s nothing heavy or morbid about the chance to tackle other schools in Tampa.

“I am thrilled,” said Shaw. “This is one of the biggest honors for us.”