Temple High School theater students did their homework when it came to learning their parts for the one-act play, Bug.
“We watched a lot of shows and did a lot of research,” said 17-year-old Emma Tolleson, a junior.
She played the part of a 35-year-old woman who used drugs and suffered abuse from her ex-husband.
“That’s nothing like me,” she said. “The key was to learn about the character but keep it fresh each time we perform.”
Their hard work has paid off.
Advancing past 251 5A high schools that entered the annual UIL One-Act Play Contest at the beginning of the season, Temple High School is one of only eight schools remaining in competition.
It’s the second year in a row that Temple is headed to state for its one-act performance, scheduled this year in Austin for May 24.
A public performance in Temple prior to the state contest will be at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 22.
Through all the contest levels, Temple has received many individual acting awards. The two top individual awards are Best Actor and Best Actress, and Temple students have received one of those two top awards at every level. At the area level, all five cast members received one of the 18 individual acting awards that were given to the six schools.
At the regional contest, Emma Tolleson was named Best Actress in the region. Andrew Tye was named to the All-Star Cast, and Latrice Scott was selected for the Honorable Mention All-Star Cast. Derresha Webb was named an All-Star Technician.
“My students are smart and dedicated and willing to explore,” said theater director Natasha Tolleson. “I don’t shy away from gritty subject matter. It pushes my kids to be better actors.”
Andrew Tye, 16, read medical books to learn about his role as a paranoid schizophrenic.
Ta’ shawn Chunn, an 18-year-old senior, interviewed people to learn about his character who abused others.
“We had to learn about desperation, what it’s like to hit rock bottom,” Tye said. “Every time we perform we take on our part as if it is the first time, to keep it fresh.”
Bug is a play by American playwright Tracy Letts, an American playwright, screenwriter and actor who received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play August: Osage County.
The play takes place in a seedy motel room in Oklahoma City.
Lonely cocktail waitress Agnes (Emma Tolleson) lives there, hiding from her violent ex-con ex-husband Jerry Goss (Ta’Shawn Chunn).
One night, her biker friend R.C. (Latrice Scott) introduces her to Peter (Andrew Tye), a Gulf War veteran who might be AWOL. She gets involved with Peter, who grows increasingly paranoid about the war in Iraq, UFOs, the Oklahoma City bombing, cult suicides, and then secret government experiments on soldiers — eventually drawing Agnes into his delusions.
The play deals with the issues of love, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and Agnes’ slow descent into insanity under Peter’s influence. Dr. Sweet is played by Daniel Eshbaugh.
Chunn, who plays the part of Jerry Goss, said he thinks about his role all the time.
“It’s taught me more about people and given me a view of the other side,” he said.
The senior said he hopes one day to major in film acting at the New York Film Academy.
“Every time we step up to the stage we should be presenting something new,” he said. “If not, then that’s not acting. It’s repeating.”
In addition to the one-act play, Temple also has seven students that advanced to the final in the UIL Theatrical Design contest and Emma Tolleson will be competing in the UIL Academics Prose contest.
Their entries will be displayed May 23-25 at Bass Auditorium in Austin.
Temple’s group entry included Zach Elliot, set design; Abryanna Ingram, costumes; Callie Ortega, hair and make-up; and Emma Tolleson, marketing.
Individual entry finalists were Chantal Cyrus, costumes (1 of 25 finalists); Jonathan Nabours, marketing (1 of 12 finalists); and Bailee Poelker, hair and make-up (1 of 9 finalists).