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A one-act success story

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JF takes Region honors; 2nd at State

By Tom Wilmoth

    As far as Peter Feagans is concerned, Theatre students at Jefferson Forest High School are carving out their own legacy.

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    Feagans is among those in Spence White’s third period acting class who claimed the Region III championship Nov. 10 at William Byrd High School. JF’s one-act version of The Rimers of Eldritch beat out performances by Turner Ashby and Harrisonburg high schools, last year’s winners.
    “It’s definitely exciting,” Feagans, a senior at JF, said. Feagans, along with junior Caitlyn Leach, were named to the All-Region Cast. “We’re trying to represent the school the best we can.”
    Under the direction of White, who is in his third year at the school, Forest has been establishing  a  strong  Theatre program.
    The Rimers of Eldritch is a play by Lanford Wilson. Originally a full-length play, the JF version is cut down to 30 minutes for its one-act presentation.
    The play is set in the mid-20th century in the Midwest, described as being at a decaying Bible Belt town that once was a prosperous coal mining community. The play focuses on the murder of an aging local outcast, Skelly Mannor, played by Feagans, by a woman who mistakenly thought Skelly was committing a rape, when actually he was trying to prevent one.
    Feagans said his time spent in Tennessee helped him come up with the accent for Skelly and the rest he made up. “I had fun with it,” he said.
    His character, though an outcast, actually becomes the moral authority of the town. In essence, Skelly exposes the hypocrisy of the others.
    Acting is something Feagans enjoys, and something he hopes to do as a vocation.
    The challenging one-act White chose at first brought chuckles from the class as they considered its difficulty. But, rather than backing down from the challenge, they embraced it.
    And that has paid off.
    Their Region win came after JF’s entry won the Seminole District Championship Nov. 3 at Brookville. Of the seven students named to the All-District Cast, three were from JF: Feagans, Kristin Wolf and Emily Horton. Grace Parker also received Honorable Mention.
    On Monday the JF team finished as State Runner-Up at the 2012 VHSL Group AA State Theatre Festival. Feagans and Caitlyn Leach were named to the All-State Cast.
    White says The Rimers of Eldritch is a play many colleges won’t even tackle.
    And for Feagans and several others in the class, learning the play this semester has meant they have had to pull double duty. Feagans also played the character of Felix in the Cavalier Theatre’s recent presentation of The Odd Couple.
    Leach, the other All-State and All-Region cast member, portrays Evelyn in the one-act play. She plays a “very judgmental” character. She said the cast was thrilled at winning District; taking Region honors went beyond anything they could have expected.
    Leach, like Feagans, would like to make acting a career. She hopes to major in musical theatre.
    The cast worked hard to keep its one-act presentation fresh as it prepared for State competition. “We want to keep up the energy,” she said.
    She credits the success to White. “We have a an awesome director,” she said of their teacher.
    White credits the work of the students.
    “I was really proud of them,” he said of their willingness to tackle the difficult play.
    The JF theatre program, along with the actors themselves, are showing real growth.
    The State competition was held at Monticello High School in Charlottesville. Seven other schools competed in the Virginia High School League State Theatre Festival; Harrisonburg took first place.
    White said at that level, it’s just about being in the competition. By going, he said the JF students were able to see the best their peers throughout the state have to offer.
    “You can’t control what the judges are going to say,” White said of that competition. “(At this point) We’re competing against ourselves.”
    He just wanted his students to enjoy themselves and their achievements.
    White certainly is.
    What began as a part-time position three years ago is now full-time. At first he had to hunt down actors for plays. Now the numbers are growing and the program had more people audition for the winter play than ever before.
    And White is also building his program through students in earlier grades. He now teaches one class at Forest Middle School.
    “I love my job,” he said. “I’m so thankful to be in a job that doesn’t feel like work.”