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Chantilly Thespians Are Theater Sports Champions

It takes a talented bunch of thespians to win a Theater Sports competition. And Chantilly High's team has now won it four times in a row.

COMPRISED OF Jesse Igbokwe, Jake Ashey, Chloe West, Michael Poandl, Hilary Baird, alternates Andrew Dugan and Maggie Monk, plus team manager Chris Liotta, the team's latest triumph was May 18 at Robinson Secondary School.

"They've had an amazing run, this year," said Chantilly Theater Director Ed Monk. "They won all three competitions this year and the last one, last year."

He said winning streaks like that happen sometimes "when kids click together. And the kids run it, themselves ā€” the rehearsals, scheduling and performing. So I'm especially proud of them for that; it's been a good year."

Six schools competed in four, improvised scenarios or "games". Teams are given variables and have to create vignettes with them, on the spot.

Ashey's favorite was "Offstage Voice," in which one team member offstage provided a voice for an inanimate object onstage. "Jesse provided the voice for my Dr. Pepper hat," said Ashey. "I thought it flowed really well as a scene, went quickly, but made sense. And it was just good, ridiculous humor."

IN THE SCENE, he said, "We were consulting the hat about how to solve global warming. And since the hat was a 'doctor,' we made him a Ph.D., and his solution was global freezing."

Ashey said he likes improv because "it leaves so much room for creativity. And as a person, I love being spontaneous." It's also intellectually challenging, he said, because "you have to be extremely focused." Ashey believes Chantilly's team won because it was "consistently solid" in its efforts.

Igbokwe, a senior, also likes improv because "all the stuff you can't do in real life, you get to throw out there just for laughs and they don't take it seriously." His favorite game was "A Day in the Life."

A person comes on stage and tells what's happened in his life. "It's boring, but it's our job to make it funny," said Igbokwe. "I was the person, and I used a British accent. I even 'passed out' and fell on the ground. I liked that one because I got into it as I went along and it brought the funny out."

He said the toughest part is "not always trying to be the star because, sometimes, you don't have something funny to say. It's a team effort and people are there to do different roles."

Igbokwe and Ashey have been on the team all year and participated in all four, recent victories. "It's a good way to end; we go out on top," said Igbokwe. "I couldn't have asked for a better season. We're like legends now."

Sophomore Michael Poandl especially liked the "Moving People" scenario. Someone from the audience would mold three of the actors into different shapes on stage. And, said Poandl, "We had to start a scene in those positions and justify them."

The scene's variables were Satan, Guatemala and duct tape. "We were in hell and Jake made it like a game show," said Poandl. "He called me down and offered different prices for my soul. He eventually gave me 25 cents for it and ripped it out."

To incorporate the variables, said Poandl, "I pretended that the Ninth Circle of Hell was Guatemala, and Chloe said, 'Oh, don't worry, we can always duct tape your soul back in.' I think that game flowed the nicest and had the funniest comments."

He said he enjoys improv because "it's just great when you entertain the audience; that's the best thing. And it's all you, making it work, so you're really proud of yourself."

Sophomore Andrew Dugan liked "Die" the best. "It's an abnormal, theater-sports game because the theater-sports referee is actually part of the scene," he explained. "He lines up the actors, points at each one and they each have to tell part of a story, with three variables."

But if an actor hesitates or repeats something that someone else already said, he or she has to "die" a dramatic death picked for them by the audience. Said Dugan: "The audience suggested I die by celebrity, so I went to shake hands with an invisible Lindsay Lohan and the plastic from her plastic surgery melted into my hand and killed me."

THIS WAS his first theater-sports competition, and he loved it. "It's so much fun because you have to entertain the audience like you're a professional," said Dugan. He said the hardest part was coming up with funny ideas on the spur of the moment.

Improv is fun, he said, because of "the audience reaction, and because it's fun to see what you can come up with, as a team. Winning was great because we've won all the competitions this year, so it was wonderful to keep that streak going. I hope to get on the team next year and continue it."