By Rebekah Martin
The Opelika High School Theater Society made a name for itself at this year’s Walter Trumbauer Festival held in Troy earlier this month.
The group brought home a few hefty accolades for the first time since the theater program was given life 14 years ago, including Best Ensemble and Best in Show.
OHS drama teacher Revel Gholston was also named 2014 Drama Teacher of the Year.
Gholston came to Opelika in 2001 to an all but nonexistent theater program. His goal, he said, has always been a simple one: to show the state of Alabama what Opelika can do for the arts and have fun doing it.
“My main goal when we started competing eight years ago was to show people that, even though we may not have as much money or participation as some other schools, our shows are just as spectacular and awe-inspiring,” Gholston said. “We were so elated that we were acknowledged – that after all these years of hard work put in by these kids, and all the ones before them who worked so hard, we finally were recognized.”
Gholston said the emphasis in his classroom is on creating good art rather than winning awards.
“I don’t really think competitive theater or art is good for the body and soul,” Gholston said. “What our competition came down to was six people’s opinions, and that’s not what art is about.”
Nevertheless, Gholston said it felt good to be recognized as a contender for the first time.
“It’s been eight years of simply going and representing,” Gholston said. “We competed against schools that pour tens of thousands of dollars into their theater programs, and we did the best we’ve ever done.”
The group performed a one-act piece titled “Quilt: A Musical Celebration.” Quilt is a collage of stories of people affected by the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s.
“I’ve told the kids over the semester about how powerful this piece was, about how much power they were wielding,” Gholston said. “I think now it’s finally hitting them – they did it right.”
Gholston said the group’s performance of “Quilt” included shadow pantomime work, solos, duets and vignettes. “It was a little different – on the fringe, so to speak,” Gholston said. “It had a little bit of everything. I guess that’s why we caught some attention with it.”
Junior Alleah Herring said the group was surprised by the awards they brought home. “This was only my second time going to Trumbauer, and we were told to not really expect much recognition for the one-act,” Herring said. “I’m thankful I got to experience this. It’ll be interesting trying to live up to our success next year.”
The win also surprised senior Auburn Terry, who was named a member of the All-Star Cast, along with Dean Jones and Paxton Moeller.
“For most of us, this is one of our last shows together,” Terry said. “For it to be this show, it is just so monumental.”
Gholston said he hopes to be able to perform “Quilt” for the community again early next year. “We have performed it twice for the community already,” Gholston said. “We maybe had about 100 people each time, so we haven’t had many people in Opelika see it. I think now that we has the success we did at state, I imagine we will have a lot more people come out to support us.”
The group was also extended a special invitation to perform at the Southeastern Theatre Annual Conference in Chattanooga, Tenn., in March.