Sulphur Springs High School Theater Director Dawn Doyle-Jones has taken William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” to UIL One-Act Play competition three times, winning district on each attempt.
On Friday, her students will perform at Area OAP in McKinney in an attempt to advance to regionals?in Denton next month.
“We’ve always won district with this play,” Doyle-Jones said during an interview in her classroom Tuesday. “We’ve always gotten to regional with it.”
The first time she directed it, the 23-year veteran said she didn’t have much “extra magic.” The second time, the production included styrofoam trees with colorful dryer sheets.
For this go-round, Doyle-Jones found some bamboo shoots that come up out of a stand purchased at Hobby Lobby and added LED lights – lights she purchased after getting approval from Superintendent Mike Lamb.
“I told him, ‘Everybody’s using technology these days,” she said. “If you want us to win, we’ve got to look good.’”
She had seen LED lights used effectively earlier this year at Texas Educational Theatre Association’s annual convention.
“Oh, I gotta have that,” she said of the lights. “Everyone [at SSHS] can use them.”
Although UIL rules are strict and clear-cut, lights are allowed. But, schools can have only a maximum of 15 actors and five crew members. The schools are also given a tight time- line.
“They have seven minutes to set up the set,” Doyle-Jones explained. “They have seven minutes to strike [take down] the set. We’ve got it down now to about five-and-a-half minutes.”
The actors have “not one second over” 40 minutes to complete their performance, according to Doyle-Jones.
“Yesterday, we ran 39:17,” she said. “My ideal time is 39 minutes. At district, we ran 38:55.”
The group is scheduled first on Friday’s playbill, with a start time of 2:30 p.m., which means their rehearsal is first thing Friday morning.
“We’ll go over Thursday night,” she explained. “Load in is at 6:30 a.m. [Friday]. We’ll have an hour to get everything on stage and spiked with tape and run through all of the cues. That’s about all we have time for.”
After their performance, the students and their teacher will sit through five other performances, ending at 7:30 p.m. There is only one judge at area.
“The judge makes her decision,” Doyle-Jones said. “The two advancing schools will go to regional. At regional, we’ll go back to panel judging, which means three judges will decide.”
If the play advances at area and regional, they’ll have some time to work on it before state competition.
Doyle-Jones is grateful to have a deep pool of talent to use for productions and competition.
“I have a great group of kids,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what I’d do for One-Act Play. I never know until after the fall show. Usually, the ones I pick from are the advanced class because they have the most experience. I gear my choice around what talent I have.”
To prepare for this year’s competition, which will be her last as she is retiring, Doyle-Jones took the group to several acting workshops.
“You get feedback from other directors and adjudicators,” she said. “They give you ideas, and then, you go back and play with your production to see what works.”
They also received some suggestions from Rebecca Falls at Tyler Junior College, their district competition judge.
“She said to change Oberon and tighten it up in places,” Doyle-Jones offered. “She also said to let your lovers be more physical. So, we added some physicality – just a tweak here and a tweak there. We have one judge at area. We’ll see.”
No matter what happens Friday, Doyle-Jones is pleased with the effort her kids have put into this year’s competition.
“They spend hundreds of hours on the plays – hundreds,” she said. “They always make me proud.”
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