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WHS Acting Troupe Pioneer Playmakers Advance To State Theater Festival Nov. 17-18


The 2016-17 Pioneer Playmakers will go on to perform at the NCTC State High School Theater Festival Nov. 17-18.
The 2016-17 Pioneer Playmakers will go on to perform at the NCTC State High School Theater Festival Nov. 17-18.

Watauga High School’s honors acting troupe, the Pioneer Playmakers, carried the program’s long history of excellence into another year at the North Carolina Theater Conference’s High School Play Festival. The group earned a “Superior” rating for their show “Mea Culpa,” and secured the opportunity to perform at the state level festival.

The Playmakers, co-directed by WHS drama teachers Sarah Miller and Zach Walker, represented one of two schools chosen from a field of 16 at the regional play festival that will now advance to the state level.

Across North Carolina, 90 schools fielded 124 productions, 16 of which were chosen to perform at the state show.

“Mea Culpa,” an original piece written by the Playmakers, is the 18th production the troupe has advanced to the state festival since 1988.

Miller said the show — a drama set in the Cold War backdrop of 1962 East Berlin — uses parallel dialogue and blocking to explore how the setting informed the lives of different families in different ways at the time.

Rachel Sabo-Hedges, Sarah Miller and Collin Linville on stage at WHS with a piece of ‘Mea Cupla’s’ set.
Rachel Sabo-Hedges, Sarah Miller and Collin Linville on stage at WHS with a piece of ‘Mea Cupla’s’ set.

“There is a lot of parallel movement and dialogue in the piece,” Miller said. “There might be a scene where a family over here has dialogue that is repeated almost verbatim by another family, but with completely different meaning.”

Miller said in choosing the formative years of the Cold War as a setting, the Playmakers hoped to explore concepts that aren’t bound by time, ones that still exist years after the end of the period — making the right choice even when it is difficult.

WHS Senior and second-year Playmaker Rachel Sabo-Hedges said, while the setting offered an opportunity to explore a compelling time period with less prominence in history classes, there were marked challenges and rewards that came with putting together an original show.

“I’ll be honest, when Sarah Miller told us that we were writing a show for NCTC, I got extremely nervous,” Sabo-Hedges said. “At the beginning I did not trust the process at all — I was very skeptical — but at regionals, I felt so good about our performance. Even if we didn’t get to state I would have been so satisfied with our work, where it led us and all of the topics that we were able to cover.”

Sabo-Hedges’ cast mate, senior and second-year Playmaker Collin Linville said writing, producing and performing Mea Culpa was one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

“I’ve probably never felt more accomplished about something than writing this show,” Linville said. “Not just writing it, but performing it and then being validated for the work we did.”

Linville said, at its heart, “Mea Culpa” was a show about choices.

“The show is a lot about decisions — the choices that people make in life and how they affect others,” Linville said. “But it’s also about this loss of innocence that we see all over the world today, and how people who are just standing by are affected by each other’s actions.”

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said the Playmakers’ success at NCTC is a product of the troupe’s talent, ability and commitment to excellence.

“‘Mea Culpa’ represents an incredible amount of hard work, skill and dedication on the part of the Playmakers,” Elliott said. “Their ‘Superior’ rating at NCTC is a reflection of that commitment and I am incredibly proud of them. We wish them the best as they go on to represent Watauga County Schools at the state play festival.”

The Playmakers will host an additional performance of “Mea Culpa” at WHS Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. The $5 admission will go towards funding the group’s trip the state theater festival in Greensboro Nov. 17-18.

The Playmakers received the following accolades at NCTC:

  • Excellence in Acting for Collin Linnville
  • Excellence in Design and Production in Sound Design for Israel Rosenfeld
  • Outstanding Achievement in Design and Production for Lighting Design and Stage Management for Rose Trew
  • Outstanding Achievement in Ensemble Acting
  • Excellence in Directing for Sarah Miller and Zach Walker
  • Superior Rating for the production
  • Audience Choice Award for Distinguished Play