NRHS actors ready to win

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, February 16, 2017

Months of practice and hard work have kept a group of Suffolk student actors competitive and successful this year.

Nansemond River High School’s competitive theater team placed second in the Conference 10 Theatre Festival in January and will compete in the 5A South Regional Finals on Saturday at Mills Godwin High School in Richmond.

This is the fifth year in a row the school has advanced to the festival’s regional stage.

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Three Nansemond River actors were named All-Conference: seniors Savannah Miller and Jaiyla Lewis, and freshman Armon Davis.

“It’s my first time, so I’m really excited,” Davis said.

The team has been performing the 15-minute musical “21 Chump Street,” a piece written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame. Director and Fine Arts Chair Dr. Joleen Neighbours said the play is an “incredibly clever music theater and hip-hop mix.”

Getting about 30 young actors coordinated for an intense sprint of acting, however, was not easy.

“It takes a lot of effort,” sophomore and theater choreographer Corinne Hatfield said. “It took a lot of playing with, and there was a lot of experimenting.”

This team’s success can be attributed to many hours of after-school practices dating back to November, when Neighbours had a zero-tolerance policy for errors. The students refer to those sessions as “suicide runs,” not rehearsals.

“Theater is a team sport,” Neighbours said. “They could be near the very end, but if one of them makes a mistake, we start over.”

She is proud of her “bright and intelligent” students, who are eager to keep up the work and earn more high scores from competition judges.

“I just want to get to stage at regionals and make it to state,” Miller said.

The competition will be tough, but the Nansemond River actors say they’re ready.

“We have more motivation than ever to get to the top,” sophomore and assistant director Rebecca Lynnchasey said.