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Chantilly Highs Wins One-Act Play Festival

There's rejoicing in the Chantilly High Drama Department. Vying against five other schools, last Monday, Jan. 28, Chantilly's thespians won the Concorde District One-Act Play Festival.

The award-winning play, "Going to School," was written by Chantilly's drama director Ed Monk and was presented by 11 cast and five crew members.

"Ours was the only original play," he said. "I had this script lying around a couple years, and this group of kids seemed like a good match to the parts because of their personalities and [prior stage experience]."

A comedy, the play shows a family taking the oldest son to college and, although inadvertently, horribly humiliating him. Monk said bits and pieces of the characters were based on members of his and his wife's families, and both parents and children can identify with it.

"It's been a lot of fun working with the kids [in the play]," he said. "And the school administration has asked us to perform it for all the senior English classes, so we'll do that next week."

As for the award, said Monk, "Competitions are so subjective, we just went into [the festival] doing the best we could. We were very pleased — it's always nice to do well." Now it's on to the regionals, Monday, Feb. 11, at Herndon High, where the top eight plays from the Northern Region will compete. The top two plays at regionals will then go on to the state championship, March 2, in Charlottesville.

Senior Jeff Gonzalez, 18, plays the lead role of Nick. "My family insists on coming with me to college, and they drive me crazy," he said. "My younger brother's a jerk, my little sister's a brat and my parents embarrass me a lot. They make a lot of mistakes that affect me."

He says he likes the play because it's not unlike his family. "I love them, but they sometimes drive me insane — and I think every kid can relate to that."

Senior Peyton Brown, 17, plays Nick's alter ego. "In the play, the action pauses and I come on," he said. "In Nick's mind, I'm the cooler perception of how he'd like to be. I comment on the action that's going on, I wear cooler clothes and there are fantasy scenes of, for example, how Nick wanted his dad to really be."

Brown also enjoyed playing his role. "It's a really funny play, and it's fun to see the little things in the play that were part of Mr. Monk's experience," he said. "And some of the things I've experienced myself, like fighting with my little sister. And after [we performed], a couple mothers came up and told us how true-to-life it was."

He said he liked playing a cool character because he's "not anything like that in real life" and he had some funny lines. And he and his castmates were thrilled to win for best play. They didn't receive any of the individual awards, announced first, and then South Lakes High was announced as winning second place. Said Brown: "They announced first place, and we were all surprised and excited."

Playing Teddy, the annoying younger brother, is senior Brett Massman, 17. "I based it on my annoying little sister," he said. "During the play, I complain about how I didn't want to go on the trip, and I fight with my brother over petty things. It's a character you encounter a lot in life. It was fun for me and bad for everyone else, because they had to listen to me whine."

He said performing the play was terrific: "We had a wonderful response from the audience." There are four scenes: In the family kitchen, the car, in line to register for college and in Nick's dorm room. and, said Massman, "The audience laughed from the time we set the stage until we were through."

Senior Martha Allison, 17, portrays a cashier at Nick's university. "I stumble upon trouble with his tuition check and help his family get through it — very rudely, though. I'm not very nice; I'm quite tiresome. I repeat the check amount loudly, several times, in front of a whole line of people, while Nick's standing there. It embarrasses him because he doesn't want people to know his problem."

She said it's fun to play a nasty character. "I'm always so nice, so it's a fresh change to be mean and get away with it," said Allison. "It's a good opportunity to play someone who's not like myself." She was surprised Chantilly took top honors at the festival, because "the competition was really hard. And even if we don't win regionals, just having the experience of going there will be fun."