Hornsby, Berkeley Students Win Big at State Theater Festival

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The cast of Berkeley Middle School's “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” receive their award from Broadway veteran Terrence Mann. (Photo Courtesy of Linda Gallant)
The cast of Berkeley Middle School’s “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” receive their award from Broadway veteran Terrence Mann. (Photo Courtesy of Linda Gallant)

Students at Hornsby and Berkeley middle schools earned top honors for their performances at the Virginia Theatre Association Middle School Theatre Festival last month.

Hornsby’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was recognized as one of the top three performances at the festival. Additionally, student Gio Ceriani was named one of the best actors at the festival.

Christina Marshburn, theater teacher at Hornsby, said this was the first year the school attended the festival. She said the students did not know what to expect of the competition but said they went in with confidence and stayed positive.

“When we heard we were top three, it was just this explosion of joy,” Marshburn said. “The parents that were there were just overjoyed as well. It was such a good moment.”

She said students auditioned for the show in May and began rehearsals during the first week of school. The script of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow lent itself to a large ensemble cast because the story was told through group lines, Marshburn said.

Hornsby Middle School's production of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was one of the top three performances at the Virginia Theatre Association Middle School Theatre Festival last month. (Photo courtesy of Christina Marshburn)
Hornsby Middle School’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was one of the top three performances at the Virginia Theatre Association Middle School Theatre Festival last month. (Photo courtesy of Christina Marshburn)

The only set pieces the 20-student cast brought were three chairs, flashlights and a jack-o’-lantern – rather than build props like trees, Marshburn said the student ensemble acted like trees.

“We basically created a lot of the atmosphere through the acting,” Marshburn said. “I think that’s what helped us execute it so well.”

Berkeley’s production of “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” garnered a gold medal, placing the performance fourth overall. Student Rory Meadows was recognized as a best actor at the festival.

This was the sixth year Berkeley had attended the festival and the sixth year the school had earned a gold medal.

“These students are very thankful to be in a school district and community where the arts are a valued part of educating the whole child,” wrote Berkeley theater teacher Linda Gallant in an email to WYDaily.

More than 3,000 participants attended the festival, which was held Oct. 21 to Oct. 25 in Norfolk. Broadway veteran Terrence Mann, best known for his roles in Cats, Les Misérables and Beauty and the Beast, handed out the awards at the festival.