By Josette Keelor
In John Cariani's romantic comedy "Almost, Maine," performed by theater students at Warren County High School, residents never got around to organizing themselves into an actual town -- hence the "almost."
For the teen actors, however, almost is not quite good enough. Currently preparing for their state theater competition on Monday, the drama club still is glowing under the spotlights of the many acting awards the small cast earned recently at the Virginia High School League AA Region II Theatre Festival on Nov. 17.
Warren County competed against nine other schools, following a win at the VHSL Evergreen District Theatre Festival in October. Monday's competition at Montecello High School in Charlottesville will have eight schools competing, said Director Chris Whitney.
Senior Tyler Peterson, 18, won best actor for his role of the character East during a scene of the one-act play that relates the stories of various characters through a series of vignettes.
Other winners were Trevor Ontiveros and Jessi Platter, who came in second for best actor and actress, respectively, and Chyanne Oestreich, who came in third for best actress.
"I felt amazing," said Platter, 17. "It was the first time I'd ever won an award through a one act." The senior, who previously won awards in acting, dancing and vocals through Wayside Theatre's Education in Action program, plays a character who returns to Almost years after abruptly leaving her boyfriend hanging without an answer to his marriage proposal. This time she intends to give him a straight answer, then learns he's already moved on.
Oestreich plays Glory, who's in Maine to witness the northern lights following the death of her husband. There she meets Peterson's character East, who helps her during her time of loss.
"We went all the way to states last year," said Oestreich, 16, but the group hoped for more wins than they received.
The drama club came in eighth place out of 100, she said. Last year's play was a comedy with a large cast, and this year, Whitney opted for something more realistic, with a fewer actors. Each performs on stage for up to 10 minutes.
"I think it's easier," said Oestreich. "You just have to focus on that one person."
"Almost" uses only a few props, but according to Oestreich, last year's didn't use any, instead relying on people to be the props in situations with a lot of physical comedy.
"I thought it would be very challenging," Whitney said, calling "Almost" a more mature play.
"I thought it was very different from last year."
"And," said Oestreich, "everyone's just so spectacular this year."
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org