by: Anna Maria Trusky
Students at Stonington High School (SHS) Drama started their summer on an award-winning high note—and unlike most students, who live for vacation, these talented young people can’t wait for the fall semester! For the second year in a row, SHS Drama participated in the Halo Awards, a statewide competition that honors excellence in high school theater. The award program is administered by Waterbury’s professional Seven Angels Theatre, which was started by Semina DiLaurentis, a Waterbury native and Broadway and TV actress who originated the role of Sister Amnesia in the musical Nunsense. Competition was tough, as drama students from all over the state were nominated. The awards were given at the end of the school year in a Tony-like ceremony at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. SHS was nominated for 17 awards and won six. The winners included Ian Capozzoli (Best Ensemble Member); Haley Barravecchia and Cory Candelet (Best Couple); Libby Hall (Best Comic Performer in a Play, female); Antonio Pereira (Above and Beyond Award); and Mackenzie Angus (Stage Manager), Kimberly Armstrong and Hannah Lyon (Assistant Stage Managers) for Best Student Stage Management & Running Crew.
SHS Theater Director Erin Lee Sousa Stanley loves the Halo Awards process. “The judges come from the executive staff, board, and actors from Seven Angels. They are professionals who really care about what we are doing and see all our plays. It’s a wonderful experience for the students.”
SHS Drama students and soon-to-be Juniors Heather Jackson, Rachyl Jackson, Libby Hall, and Wyatt Floyd were thrilled about the awards and eagerly shared their feelings about being involved in the Drama program at SHS. Rachyl, a talented make-up artist, remembers watching her big brother rehearse and helping him run lines when he went to SHS. “I wanted to be those kids up there,” she said.
“Rachyl is amazing,” Erin said. “She does so much research to create the perfect makeup for each character.”
Rachyl’s twin sister Heather played the role of Julia in the school’s recent production of Lend Me a Tenor. “I love the way we become like a family when we work on a show together,” she said. “Theater is like a varsity sport. There is a lot of teamwork involved.”
Wyatt, an actor and photographer who does the call board photos, slide shows, and DVDs, was an apprentice stage manager this past school year. “The whole experience of theater is thrilling. The drama program is the best part of the school year,” he said.
Libby noted that “It is humbling to see the work of the other schools that are nominated for the awards. Seeing how much talent there is makes you want to work harder. I would not want to be at any other school because our drama program and the training we get from Mrs. Stanley is the best.”
Mackenzie Angus, an award winner who just graduated and will be attending a pre-med program, joined the interview by phone. “I love stage managing. You get to see everything on and off stage, all the behind-the-scenes activity. And I couldn’t ask for better friends.”
“The program is going great,” said Erin. “We’re selling out performances. The whole community really looks forward to our shows. It is a true family affair because our students’ parents get involved, and it inspires younger children. We have amazing kids here at Stonington, and our drama program attracts the cream of the crop!”