Actors represent Suffolk well

Published 9:11 pm Friday, February 9, 2018

A play about a school shooting is heavy material, but fine acting about difficult topics has come to be the hallmark of the Nansemond River High School theater program.

While everyone loves a fun, upbeat musical, Nansemond River’s selection for its recent Virginia High School League 5-A Sectionals competition wasn’t that. The play, titled “The Amish Project,” told the story of the 2006 shooting at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pa. The gunman took 10 young girls hostage and killed five of them before killing himself.

Many of the actors in Nansemond River’s theater program had to tap into the psyche of a child and then portray that child’s reaction to the shooting. Others had to convey local residents and even the gunman’s widow, all of them thrust into a situation horrifying beyond all imagination.

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But the students did so under the co-direction of students Colin Lowery and Felicia Josey. Sophomore Emma Cox and seniors Madelyn Alspaugh, Mackenzie Sheppard and Laura Callis won outstanding actor for their respective performances. The entire team placed first with the play.

Dr. Joleen Neighbours, NRHS theater director and fine arts facilitator for Suffolk Public Schools, has been leading this program to excellence for many years, and she certainly didn’t slow down this year.

The team now moves on to the VHSL Super Regionals on Feb. 17. We have every expectation Neighbours and her troupe of excellent young actors will once again represent Suffolk well.