The Truth behind UIL: What I Learned

Featured image: Carnegie Vanguard Theater Department

The One-Act Play Contest, founded in 1927, is the largest high school play production contest or play festival in the world. More than 14,000 Texas high school students in more than 1,000 plays participate in 300 plus contests.

According to the official UIL website, that is what the One-Act Play competition is. Is that really it? Just a plain textbook definition for a competition schools can enter. But what more is there? What could possibly drive students to strive so hard towards storytelling and thus success? Many people have asked me what it is like to do the UIL One-Act Play with the Carnegie Vanguard Theatre Department, and though our loss at Bi-District was very recent, I think it is important to express the life-changing, gut-wrenching passion and importance it placed in all of our lives.

After two nights of debate and discussion with the whole department, an almost unanimous vote led us to choosing Therese Raquin, based on the French novel by Émile Zola. It follows a girl, Therese, whose father leaves her to live with her aunt and cousin in Vernon, but as they grow up into adults they are forced into marriage. Without a tangible idea of love, she graves for the passion their marriage lacks and soon acts on an affair with her husband’s childhood friend. The play is hard. Extremely hard, from the simple naturalistic text filled with deep, unsurfaced subtext to the melodramatic tendencies that are impossible to avoid. Everything you read forces you to feel, whether the morals of the characters’ actions are good or bad. It is human. Every fiber of your being does not want to accept the instinctual action and choices that are made by the characters and you cry when the consequences are inevitable. Humans are ultimately animals, and there is an underlying subconscious that we struggle to avoid. Such an investment to this kind of show can tear you apart. It destroys everything you want to believe and teaches you what most people have to learn at an older age. You begin to question who you are as a person, and we used that genuine feeling of pain and love to create art. Therese was a form of beautiful art that students at our school were able to create together, shedding blood and tears to tell this story. The amount of dedication and work put in from the company was outstanding and you couldn’t help but feel like you were working towards something great. UIL can make you hate yourself, exhausted with the frustration and disappointment you have for your own work, but it was somehow worth it. Every minute, every tear, every bruise, and every laugh somehow made it worth the world. The night at Bi-District, we told our story honestly. I truly believe that. Whether we lost or won means absolutely nothing. UIL is more than that. It’s the fact that it was over that made it hurt. When you put so much of your being into one thing, your attachment to it is indescribable. It will never really be over, because wherever any of the cast and crew end up, somehow and someway Therese will transcend and root itself into our lives. Life is nothing without passion, and we all should be allowed to find it.

On a much brighter note, the journey does not have to end just yet, because the Carnegie Vanguard Theatre Department is offering two more performances for our family and friends. The performances will be on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9. Contact your theatre friends to buy a ticket! We have been working even more on the show for the past couple of weeks, and, as we are no longer restricted by UIL rules, such as the amount of fabric allowed onstage or how much music can be included, the show has grown in front our eyes. There are even new scenes added to the play that have never-before been performed! I hope that as many people can come as possible because it is truly an honor to be able to continue to share our work, especially with the people that matter. Without an audience, there is no play. Besides, I don’t think I’ll be saying goodbye to Therese Raquin just yet.

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