Ford theater students win awards at one-act play festival

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published March 22, 2023

SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA/STERLING HEIGHTS — Theater students from Utica Ford High School last month gave the best performance in the school’s history of performing at the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association One-Act State Festival at Central Michigan University.

Ford’s show, “Priscilla Dreams the Answer,” by Walt McGough, placed third in the state for studio productions. Ford also earned the Innovation in Theatre Award, which recognizes the theater company that showed the most creativity and used the most innovative theater techniques.

Ford also won the “Fitz Class Act” award, which is named after longtime MIFA Executive Director Jon Fitzgerald. The trophy is awarded to the school that demonstrates the most kindness, helpfulness and inclusiveness over the course of the weekend in its interactions with the weekend’s participants.

Kirstin Carolin, the theatre director at Henry Ford II High School, said there’s a tough competition to reach the MIFA State Tournament and Ford II theater has been fighting to break into one of the top three spots for nearly a decade.

“It was definitely a competitive dream come true for me and the students,” she said in an email interview.

She and the students reportedly work together to choose challenging literature.

“This year’s show required a lot of innovation because it relies on impressionism and surrealism to tell the characters’ stories. I’m thrilled that the judges recognized the students’ ability to honestly weave a ‘dream play’ and how clever and creative they needed to be to accomplish this. I was friends with the award’s namesake, longtime MIFA Executive Director Jon Fitzgerald, and being recognized as the school deserving the “Fitz Class Act” award was an immense compliment.

She said she is proud to be affiliated with students who always demonstrate their best.

“I most enjoyed spending the weekend on a college campus with my students and watching them critically discuss the many other shows they had an opportunity to see. Many of them haven’t had an opportunity to visit any campuses or see live theatre for a variety of reasons. Watching them visualize where they may be headed next and have critical discourse regarding their work and the work of their peers is one of the best parts of teaching.”

The show was chosen by junior Bria Loveday and the school’s Theatre II/III students and was student-directed by Loveday with help from seniors Mikayla Mazza and Michael Olevenick. Senior Leilani Lanz created the logo.

The school district described the play in this way: “Priscilla was feeling down, until the aliens showed up. Now she’s the most important person in the universe, and the fates of two planets rest on her. It hasn’t made her feel much better, but at least it’s something to do. A game-show savant, a dash of math and a metric ton of bubble-wrap all come together in a dreamy, funny, melancholy look at the questions we ask and the answers we need.”

The following students were individually recognized, some with descriptions of excellent or superior:

• Miriam Trevino: superior for her portrayal of Priscilla.

• Adrian Gjerkaj: superior for his portrayal of Harry.

• Alban Gjerkaj, Aidan Carolin, and Ryan Snider: superior for set construction.

• Jade Griffin: sound design and execution.

• Rylee Hesske: superior for her paper flowers.

• Loveday and the entire ensemble: for their properties.

• Loveday: excellent for her choice of script.

• Julian Warmack, Katie Nowak, Elizabeth Richard, and Hailee Garrick: excellent for their performance as the ensemble of narrators.

• Hailee Gerrick: excellent for her facial expressions.

• Trinity Miller and Dane Hoppe: excellent for their alien antics.

• Excellent rating for having the most bubble wrap on stage ever.

Loveday said she was very surprised at the number of awards they won, but she knew they had it in them.

“I was so excited to see our hard work pay off. I think I played a big role in the award for innovation due to my choice of script and unique portrayal of a dream play on stage. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see other performances and meet new people. It was also a great learning experience,” she said via email.

Ford theater students will be presenting “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, at the Henry Ford II Performing Arts Center, 11911 Clinton River Road in Sterling Heights, on March 23, 24 and 25. The first two shows will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the show March 25 will begin at 3 p.m. Discounted tickets are available at Tickets will cost $15 at the door.