MATTHEWS – The first time was the charm for drama students at Crestdale Middle School.
They entered the North Carolina Theater Conference Middle School Play Festival for the first time and came home with some pretty impressive hardware for their performance of “A Wrinkle in Time.” Schools from across the state participated in the festival March 30 at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte.
Each school performed a 45-minute production in front of judges, family, friends and other students. “A Wrinkle in Time” is about the adventures of Meg and brother Charles in the search for their lost father in alternate worlds
Crestdale eighth-grader Marcos Martinez was named best actor for his role as the Red-Eyed Man. Eighth-graders Catie Hunter and Grant Bergeman won top honors for best stage direction-management.
Almost 30 students, which included the cast and technical support, participated in the production and spent around 40 hours preparing for the festival. They performed “A Wrinkle in Time” at the school following the competition.
Crestdale drama teacher Evie Costello said the students handled the stress of performing in front of a large audience well. They overcame several minor glitches, like the props getting tangled up.
“It was a pleasure to see the kids perform well on a professional stage,” Costello said. “They had to overcome a ton of challenges, and they totally did. I did not see excessive nerves in that performance. They overcame whatever fears they had. They truly looked like young professionals.”
The ensemble participants were also understudies for the lead actors and actresses in the production.
“For middle school, you need understudies for your lead roles,” Costello said. “They are learning how to perform on stage, and from experience, I have learned anything could happen that could take away one of the lead characters. We’ve had a lost voice, and we have lived through that. A death in the family – we have lived through that. We have to have backup kids ready to go.”
Costello said the school’s first time at the festival gave her ideas to prepare for future competitions.
“The one thing I can’t give them is an audience (while practicing),” Costello said. “I would like to have a preview performance in my future shows. I can’t set them up for the stress of a performance unless I do a preview.”
The drama students also performed a fall improv show. They received a partial grant from the Arts and Science Council to help pay for teaching artist Paul Marks from OTC Improv of Charlotte to teach the students improv. Marks spent about 20 hours working with students after school working on the production.
“It was fabulous learning how to respond quickly on the spot and come up with a response is such an important life skill,” Costello said. “It helps you teach quick thinking, problem-solving, quick reaction and that can help lay the foundation for great work ethic in the future. Paul really works on right brain exercises. The show went well because there is so much audience participation. It was a little nerve-racking because in live theater, anything can happen.”