Let the kids play

Dear UIL: We need you right now


Ella Majors

Pete Gint, played by Caleb Mosley, fights against the mysterious Bresh during last year’s bi-district championship run. If the UIL cancels One-Act Play competitions, the company won’t get another crack at the road to state.

Jackson Posey, Sports Editor

In 2019, theatre’s production of GINT was eliminated at the area round of One-Act Play competition. They technically finished with the third-highest score, which would have advanced them on to region, but a tabulation quirk sent them back home.

I was a freshman in that company. I was an ensemble member, and proud of it. We rehearsed every day for hours, and I loved every second of it. My class workload was immense, and personal issues plagued me, but every day after school I could relax. I could finally take a deep breath and forget about the heaviness of the world around me.

On April 6, that was taken away from me. We competed, and we lost, and that was that. We were upset yet resigned, because when we lose, we lose with dignity.

But that didn’t mean the work was finished. We had to avenge the perceived injustice that had been inflicted upon us. Director Casey O’Bryant began searching for a new script almost immediately. Casting and auditions were formulated before our fall show, Middletown, even completed its run. We were given our scripts before Christmas break, and were all off-book before we returned for the second semester.

The bottom line: we give our lives to our craft. Rehearsals run roughly two hours every weekday, and at least six hours on Saturdays. Free time? What is free time? We spend every waking moment on the show or on homework, and the open moments we do have we use on the show. We dedicated everything we had to the company because it truly is a family, a quirky band of misfits working together towards a common goal.

Until, suddenly, everything changed. With the spread of Coronavirus, the entire fabric of civilization seems to be splitting in two. Major athletic events cancelled, travel bans enacted, mass quarantines of entire regions of countries, toilet paper shortages – every cultural stronghold that stood as a pillar of hope has fallen. And people everywhere are terrified of what might come next.

Scientists believe that the reason Generation Z is the most anxiety-riddled generation ever is that they have far too many daily stresses. Whether gossip or global warming, scores or school shooters, perception or pandemics, life has become a cesspool of stress for the world’s adolescent population. A stresspool, if you will. And with the growing necessity of cell phones for communication and classwork, there’s no way to shut all of that stress out.

Luckily, some teens have found relief. For me and 21 of my classmates, that safe retreat is theatre. A haven where, regardless of how much weight is on your shoulders, you can shed it in favor of becoming someone else entirely. It’s a gift that none of us take for granted.

But during lunch on Thursday, I looked down and saw this tweet from the Texas UIL Twitter account. “UIL Academic State Events Postponed Due to COVID-19.” My heart sank. Sure, it wasn’t theatre. Sure, it was “postponed” in lieu of an official cancellation. But we all knew it was simply a sign of things to come. And it was. Three hours later came a press release cancelling basketball’s championship weekend, which was Tweeted during one of the semifinal matches. It was a bad omen, a telling story that we wished would just go away.

We’d worked six days a week for two months, many of us turning down other opportunities to do so. Theatre isn’t a hobby – it’s a commitment, one that we give our lives to. And, yeah, we might be “just some high schoolers.” But we’re connected by bonds that stretch the definition of “friend” to something resembling a family.

But those bonds were tested on Thursday. I showed my director the press release; he solemnly nodded. “OK,” he said. None of us wanted to acknowledge it. We were slowly becoming resigned to the thing we cherished being taken away from us, despite us having no representation nor recourse. And nothing is worse than the feeling of the world being against you,

What will we do if One-Act is postponed, or cancelled? I don’t know. Nobody does. One by one, we have realized that the possibility is a real one. And yet none of us have figured out what to do instead. Like fish out of water, we’re engaged in a mad search for hope. And, for now, that hope hasn’t faded quite yet.

The UIL One-Act Play competition exists, at the end of the day, for the students. And the students have spoken, loud and clear: let us compete. If worried stragglers stumble off, we will congratulate them on their decision and press on. This is no longer a competition aimed at finding the best play. It’s a race to save the souls of the students of Texas. The shows must go on.

If COVID-19 doesn’t slow down, and the only proper course of action is cancelling events, then by all means do so. But to miss this opportunity to provide a respite to the hurting, to those who need theatre now more than ever… that would be a massive mistake. There are seniors who will never get another shot. Anxious juniors who need a way out. Shy sophomores who finally worked up their courage. Wide-eyed freshmen searching for direction in life. All different, and yet somehow all the same. And right now, all of them are looking at their Holy Grail, wondering if their dreams will be tossed away like chaff in the wind.

It’s time to do the right thing, UIL. Keep the lights on. Let the kids play.