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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 8 months ago

Windermere thespians take home FTC titles

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Theater students from Windermere High won several awards at the Florida Theatre Conference in mid November.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

The Windermere Wolverines are no strangers to winning theater awards — and they’ve struck again in a recent statewide competition.

Windermere High School’s theater students hit the road from Nov. 13 to 16 to compete in the Florida Theatre Conference at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, where the students competed against more than two dozen schools. Windermere High’s theater department took home the awards for Best Set and Best Play for the one-act play, “The Arkansaw Bear.” Additionally, students Angeline Dimoglou and Ava Madara took home All-Star Cast awards, and Blake Croft was awarded Best Actor in a Male Role.

“‘The Arkansaw Bear’ is a story … of a little girl named Tish whose grandfather is dying, and she doesn’t know how to process the impending death of her grandfather,” said Jonathan Jackson, who is one of the theater teacher at WHS. “So she imagines … this magical tree and a star and this dancing bear — the world’s greatest dancing bear — which is sort of a metaphor for her grandfather. … The dancing bear is escaping the great ringmaster. He’s running from the great ringmaster, who is sort of a representation of death.

“Through this process, the little girl, Tish, kind of learns about grief, loss and coping,” Jackson later added. “One of the mantras of the story that the bear tells her is: ‘If you’re whistling, you can’t cry. You can’t cry when you’re whistling.’” 

Jackson added that aside from the competition, the Florida Theatre Conference also includes numerous workshops and even offers thespians the opportunity to audition for more than 50 different colleges, universities and conservatories from across the country.

With these wins under their belt, the WHS thespians will move on to represent the entire state of Florida in the Southeastern Theatre Conference this February in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s the second year in a row that the school will be representing Florida. 

“What also is exciting is ... this is the second year in a row that we’ve won this Best Play award from this festival, which I think is pretty exciting for a new high school like ours,” Jackson said. “Last year, our one act that we brought — ‘And Then Came Tango’ — won Best Play, and we took that to Knoxville to represent Florida for the Southeastern Theatre Conference. Now we get to do that for the second year in a row.” 

Blake Croft played the Rev. Shaw Moore in WHS theater’s production of “Footloose: The Musical” in October. He won the award for Best Actor in a Male Role at the Florida Theatre Conference for his role in “The Arkansaw Bear.”

Croft is in his senior year at WHS, and he plays the bear in “The Arkansaw Bear.” He’s competed in the SETC since his freshman year and is proud to have been honored with the award for Best Actor in the final year of his high school career. 

“I was kind of shocked,” Croft said when he received the award for Best Actor. “This was my fourth and last year at FTC — the Florida Theatre Conference — and the past three years I’ve seen some really amazing peers and students from other high schools win the award, and it kind of seemed untouchable. Their performances were so good and so clean. To win the same honor felt so nice. (It’s been) four years in the making of just pure excitement and hard work and all that. To be honored with those people felt amazing.”

In addition to the wins at the FTC, the WHS thespians also received numerous recognitions for “The Arkansaw Bear” in the Florida Thespians District 5 competition held Nov. 21 to 23. The recognitions they received include the Critic’s Choice One Act Performance, Superior One Act Performance and Superior Technical Performance. All-Star Cast awards went to Madara and Katy Mier, and Caroline Inches received an award for All-Star Crew. 

Jacob Tulenson was recognized for Outstanding Lighting Design, and Croft was awarded for Best Actor in a One-Act Play.  Additionally, Julia Gustafson and Ashley Leeper won Best in Show for Duet Acting, Sage Croft won Best in Show for Student Directed Scene and Sidney LaCoss won Best in Show for Sound Design. The WHS thespians also will present “The Arkansaw Bear” at the Florida State Thespian Festival in March.

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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