For the second time in nine straight years of performing at the Virginia High School League state theater festival, Lafayette High School took home the top prize in its class.
The 25-student cast and crew of The Yellow Boat competed against regional champions in the 4A group Tuesday in Charlottesville. This is the first year Lafayette has represented 4A East, having previously competed as a 3A East school.
The Yellow Boat is a 1997 one-act abstract play by David Saar about the life of his son Benjamin, who was diagnosed with congenital hemophilia and died at 8 years old from AIDS-related complications.
The ensemble earned first place in the state competition and students Jack Mills, who played Benjamin, and Emma Rote, who played Benjamin’s mother, received outstanding actor awards.
Suzan McCorry, Lafayette’s theater director, said in the days between the regional and state competitions, students focused on further developing their characterization so the audience could “understand what [the Saar] family went through.” The effort paid off, McCorry said.
“I know the audience was very much engaged because you could hear the sniffling, you could hear people crying. The stillness of the audience was there,” McCorry said. “I knew as a director they really nailed that.”
Students spoke with Saar on the phone yesterday to share the news of their success. They had previously interacted with Saar on video chat when they were preparing for the VHSL competitions and were encouraged by Saar to focus on the life of his son, not his death, during the performance.
McCorry said the students are writing letters to Saar about their experience performing The Yellow Boat, which they will compile in a book and send to Saar and his wife as a Christmas gift.
“Our students have been so inspired and it’s such an honor that we were able to take this story and educate our audiences,” McCorry said.
Lafayette had won first place in the 3A class with its production of Over the River and Through the Woods, a one-act play by Joe DiPietro, in 2010. McCorry said in the past nine years Lafayette has always placed in the top four.
The school presented Over the River and Through the Woods at the Williamsburg Regional Library in 2011, and McCorry said she would seek an opportunity for students to present The Yellow Boat at a community venue in January or February.