Performing "The Cards of Fate," an original play written by their theater director Ed Monk, Chantilly's talented thespians took first place in the district, last week, in the VHSL One-Act Play Competition.
Vying against five other schools, Feb. 1, at Herndon High, they topped Centreville's "The Invisible Man," in second place, and Herndon's "Godspell," in third. Chantilly competes this Saturday, Feb. 12, against seven schools in Regionals.
"WE'RE THRILLED to death — we were really excited [to win]," said Monk. "Competition is always toughest in the Concorde District, and the students did a very nice job."
"The Cards of Fate" is the name of a game show — but one where the contestants play God with other people's lives. Bad things suddenly befall these people when the contestants answer questions wrong. But the affected people don't know they're connected to the show and someone else is deciding their fate.
Chantilly's cast featured 12 actors, most playing two roles each. Senior Mike Deviney played a dad and a college student. As a student, he was just moving into his dorm. "My character was supposed to be roommates with a hot girl," he said. "But when the contestant got the question wrong, he ended up instead with an obnoxious, dirty, smelly, punk-rocker guy."
As a dad, his daughter was receiving her SAT scores in the mail. "If the contestant got the question right, my daughter would get a 1600 on her test," he explained. "But the contestant got it wrong, so she got a 430."
Senior Samantha Packard played the girl. "I could be nervous, ramble and scream, so I didn't have to hold back," she said. "I could totally freak out. It was lots of fun."
In another scenario, a teen had his tux, limo and date for the prom and, if the contestant was successful, he'd have a great evening. If not, his date would cancel and he'd lose all the money he'd spent on preparations.
THE QUESTIONS were easy, said Deviney but, in the play, the contestant was especially inept. And although some vignettes sound sad, he said, "The way we portrayed them was funny." And he called Chantilly's victory amazing.
"I thought our play was really good, but the other schools did a good job, too," he said. "But the judges' decision was unanimous." Pumped, he added, "We won Districts last year for 'A Curtain Call to Arms,' and we made districts three times in four years. In 2002, Chantilly won the VHSL State Championship with 'Going to School,'" also written by Monk.
Senior Melissa Klein was named "Best Actress" at last week's competition. She played one of the show's hosts and announced all the prizes, plus the locations of each scenario. "It was so much fun," she said. "I had to be perky, the whole time, with a cheesy smile and Vanna White hand motions and gestures. And I had a bell and a buzzer."
She said her award was a great honor. "I felt we all worked really hard and it was fabulous to get recognition for the work I'm doing," said Klein. "We all brought in lots of energy." Raissa Dalusung also played a hostess, and Phil Reid was the contestant, and during each vignette, the three of them had to freeze. Said Klein: "Often, it was with a big smile on my face — which was painful."
Reid, a senior, played the show's only contestant, Nick Koskowski. "This guy does really bad on the show and doesn't get any questions right," said Reid. "He's upset that he's doing badly, especially because he went through the whole process of getting on the show — and he gets all the answers right at home."
He enjoyed playing this character because, although the host and announcer don't sympathize with the people who have bad things happen to them, Nick does. Said Reid: "He eventually wants to leave the show, but his contract and other events prevent him for leaving."
He said the toughest part was when Nick realizes he's not the greatest contestant. "That transition from thinking he's the best is difficult," said Reid. "But being on stage the whole time, watching the different characters come on and having a part in this story is really cool." And it was great winning the competition. "We were ecstatic," he said. "We tried our best and it paid off."
DALUSUNG'S character asked the questions and told the answers. "We had to be completely energized, and it was fun spoofing a game show because you could be as cheesy as you wanted," she said. "And during the middle of the show, we went to commercial break and Melissa and I were completely different characters from how we were on the game show."
On "camera," they were happy and upbeat. But during the break, said Dalusung, "She'd yell at the booth people and be bossy, and I was much more insecure than I was during the show. So it was a completely different change in our characters, and it was a good experience playing [them both] within the same show."
With just a few weeks to practice, she said the students "didn't get our hopes up and expect to win, so it was nice when we did. And we're hoping to do just as well at Regionals."
Mitch MacDonald played William Arthur Zimmerman and Otto. "If a contestant tries to leave before the show's over, Otto comes out and shoots them," he said. "Fortunately for Nick, he didn't leave. To make it more intimidating, I wore one of the dark robes we used for the Ghost of Christmas Future in 'A Christmas Carol' and cut up a hockey mask so I looked like Hannibal Lechter."
William was a senior about to receive a prestigious award and a $4,000 scholarship for his schoolwork. But because Nick wasn't good at the game, William failed his history final, the scholarship went to someone else and he didn't graduate.
MacDonald said he had fun because of the other actors in his scenario. Brian McDonald played a graduating student, David Wyant played the principal who drew out the humor in the graduation speech, and Faqir Qarghar was the person receiving the scholarship. Said MacDonald: "They did good jobs with their facial expressions and acted their parts well."
As for the victory, he said, "It's always good to come in first, but especially when it's unanimous. They drop your lowest score, but ours would have been kept by everyone else."
Monk wrote the play 10 years ago when "Jerry Springer" was big and "Cops" was coming out — "entertainment at other people's misery," he said. "And with the new reality shows, it's gotten much worse. The play takes the audience one way and then twists on them. The audience doesn't know how to react, so it's fun."