NEW PORT RICHEY
Last summer, a few members of J.W. Mitchell High School's Thespian Troupe 6272 were mulling over a production they would perform together at December's district competition. Now, they will become the first in school history to perform in the opening ceremonies of the Florida State Thespian Festival, March 26-29 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.
Kara Doyle, Katy Gentry and Samantha Miller brought Nick Zagone's one-act play, Mint Juleps, to life at the district festival, which convened 413 student thespians from 17 troupes in Pasco, Polk and Hernando counties to compete in a variety of categories.
They earned a Critics' Choice award in ensemble acting — one of three Critics' Choice honors awarded to Mitchell students at the festival. Judges also selected them to represent District 14 on stage in the state event's opening ceremonies.
"I'm so proud of my students," said David O'Hara, their Mitchell High drama teacher.
The students take pride in their production.
"We can't wait to show Mint Juleps to the entire state," said Samantha.
The winning students chose their own play, which they say reflects many aspects of their own lives.
"We were sitting at Sam's house when we decided that we wanted to do something together for the festival," said Kara, a 17-year-old senior. "We looked on the Internet and found a play with three girls in a car, talking about everything from boys to peer pressure. It put a light spin on real issues."
"And it cracked us up," said Katy, a 16-year-old junior.
All three girls have always shown a flair for the dramatic.
Kara, a New York native, has appeared in school productions of Stage Door and The Bad Seed.
"I was always expressive. I started singing when I started talking," she said. "My mom said, 'We've got to get you on a stage.' "
Samantha, a 17-year-old senior, was president of the Seven Springs Middle School drama club before coming to Mitchell High.
"When you're planning a drama production, you forget about everything else, all the difficulties of life," she said. "And when the production comes together, it's amazing."
And although Katy describes herself as someone who mainly works behind the scenes, she was bitten by the acting bug at an early age.
"I saw a show when I was a kid, and it changed my life forever," she said. "I couldn't wait until the third grade, when I could be in a school play."
When these three friends get together, their flair for the dramatic often takes over.
"Being around my friends from drama class always brings out my dramatic side," Samantha said.
"We're always making jokes and references from our current productions," Katy said. "We could be out for ice cream and start discussing the logistics for Stage Door, or launch into a scene from a play."
All three hope to study theater in college and, perhaps, pursue the theatrical arts as a part- or full-time career. In the meantime, the students are a bit overwhelmed by their success at the district thespian festival.
"We're still in shock," said Katy.
"It's amazing," Kara added.