3 Halo Awards Show the Strength of Westover's Theatre Program

Westover's Theatre Program has won three Halos: the Fearless Award, the Best Lighting Award, and a special acting award – the Last Minute Hero Award.

3 Halo Awards Show the Strength of Westover's Theatre Program

The cast and crew of Piece of My Heart, which won the Fearless Award at the 2018 Halo Awards, which is given to a production that tackles controversial topics, asks tough questions, and makes bold choices. The play is based on the real-life experiences of women nurses, entertainers, and soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Dylan Norris '19 (center) with Technical Director Ian Diedrich and Director of Drama Marla Truini, received the 2018 Halo Award for Best Lighting for their work on Westover's production of Romeo and Juliet.

Kasey Ingerson '20 (left) with Director of Drama Marla Truini. Kasey is the recipient of the 2018 Last Minute Hero Award, for stepping into the role of Juliet for Westover's production of Romeo and Juliet on one day's notice.

Westover's Theatre Program was recognized with three Halo Awards this year, winning the Fearless Award for its spring production of A Piece of My Heart, the Best Lighting Award to Dylan Norris '19 for their work on the winter production of Romeo and Juliet, and a special acting award – the Last Minute Hero Award – to Kasey Ingerson '20 for stepping into the role of Juliet a day before the play opened in February.

"What an exciting way to end our 2017-2018 season," said Marla Truini, Westover's Director of Drama. "It is always a good feeling to be recognized for excellent work, and winning three Halo Awards did just that." Westover's three theatre productions (which included the musical The Secret Garden as its fall term production) had received a total of 15 Halo Award nominations, including two in the top categories, for Romeo and Juliet for Best Classical Play and A Piece of My Heart for Best Contemporary Play. The Halo Awards, which were presented May 30, are acting and technical theatre awards sponsored by Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury.

That evening, Marla said, "we all got dressed up to attend the Halo Awards ceremony at the Palace Theatre, where we saw performances given by peer schools from throughout the state. Although the Halo Awards are a theatre competition," she added, "the atmosphere at the Palace was electric in its mutual support and generosity. It made my heart swell to hear the students cheer for each other's performances." Marla noted that Featured Actress Nominee Cassandra Lechner '18 "brought down the house with her performance of 'Hold On' from The Secret Garden."

Receiving the Fearless Award for Westover's production of A Piece of My Heart, a play based on the real-life experiences of women in the Vietnam War, Marla said, "meant that the judges truly understood the challenges of approaching this tremendously difficult material." A Piece of My Heart had been selected as Westover's spring production, Marla explained, as part of the School's themed year, The Power of Women. "We wanted to pay tribute to the women nurses, entertainers, and soldiers whose contribution to the Vietnam War went virtually unnoticed," Marla said. "A Piece of My Heart was a labor of love on the part of the cast and crew, and I could not be prouder of their work." The cast members for the show were Jyne Dunbar '18, Cammie Hussey '20, Kasey Ingerson '20, Meredith Diamond '19, Artemis Li '20, Wava Chan '21, Emily Benoit '20, and Sabina Wilson '21. The production crew for A Piece of My Heart included Lire Bolden '19, Natalie Brown '21, Sarah Gordon '19, Emilie Hart '19, Serena Hogan '19, Clarice Hua '20, Dylan Norris '19, Izzy Poskas '21, Liana Swarz-Burt '20, and My Van '20.

Dylan's Halo Award for Best Lighting for Romeo and Juliet, Marla said, reflects how "the theatre program at Westover is growing by leaps and bounds. This was Dylan's third year in the program and, under the guidance of Technical Director Ian Diedrich, Dylan learned how to program a brand-new lighting board for this show. Dylan rose to the challenge of exploring the cutting-edge technology, mastering how to program 'smart lights,' and won a Halo amid very stiff competition." Marla added, "The younger students who are coming up through the ranks of the tech program can now see Dylan's accomplishment, and think, 'I want to do that!'"

Kasey's Last Minute Hero Award, Marla said, embodies the familiar show business adage, "The show must go on." A day before Romeo and Juliet was to open, Marla said, "our lead actress was stricken with the flu and Kasey agreed to step into the role of Juliet less than 24 hours before the opening. It may have been daunting to take on such a huge role at such short notice, but Kasey never hesitated," Marla recalled. "'If you need me to do it, I will do it,' was her response." Marla added, "The theatre community understands the depth of the risk a last-minute replacement makes on behalf of a show, so it was wonderful to see Kasey recognized, not only for the excellence of her work, but also for her team spirit and professional commitment." Kasey had received Halo Award nominations for Best Actress in two categories this year – one for her performance as Juliet and one for her performance as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.

Each school participating in the Halo Awards, Marla noted, also nominates one of its student performers for the Gypsy Award, which is given to a student who has a role in the chorus, "a person who supports the production with their spirit," Marla explained, "but who is not the 'star.' Noor Al-Haddad '21, who played the Robin in our production of The Secret Garden was Westover's nominee for the Gypsy of the Year Award," Marla said. "Although the award was won by a student from another school, Noor was invited onto the stage at the Palace to participate in the Gypsy Robe Ceremony. This is another example of the ways in which theatre brings people together. Noor had never participated in a play before coming to Westover, and for her role, she learned acting and skills as a puppeteer, and she is eager to come back next year for another show."

Marla is now at work planning the 2018-2019 theatre season at Westover, which will include productions of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, and a student-directed One-Act Play Festival.