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Erskine students shine at Speech and Theatre festival

Dr. Brad Christie, second from left, who has directed many Erskine  productions, poses with (from left) Tillary Blackman, Rebecca Pearson, Michaela Shoemake, T.J. Fisher, Brianna Hasty, Laura Walenceus and Bryce Pruitt.

Eight Erskine College students, accompanied by guest director Anna DeVault, attended the South Carolina Speech and Theatre Association (SCSTA) Festival in Easley Feb. 2. Seven of the eight students participated in the competition.

“All students who participated did very well in their rounds,” DeVault said. “To go to finals, the top two in each flight/category advance to compete for first, second and third in each category.”

From left, Bryce Pruitt, T.J. Fisher, Gil Snowden and Rebecca Pearson display their awards.

Junior Rebecca Pearson of Laurens won first place in Poetry Interpretation; senior Gil Snowden of Clemson placed second in Audition Monologues; and junior T.J. Fisher of Starr placed third in the Musical Theatre category.

“Erskine also won the New Member award for points awarded and student participation in a variety of events,” DeVault reported.

Eleven colleges and universities in South Carolina entered this year’s festival.

Senior Bryce Pruitt of Williston, president of Erskine’s Rho Psi Chapter of Alpha Psi Omega (APO), an honorary theater fraternity, called the SCSTA event “an excellent experience” and said he was glad he was able to compete.

“SCSTA was very similar to math team competitions in that you go all day and you spend time competing and also spend time watching other people perform,” Pruitt said, recalling his own experience as a member of a high school math team.

“You are surrounded by people who have the same passion as you. It’s an interesting feeling,” he said. “During that whole day, I felt, ‘This is a place full of people who love theater.’”

Following his performances, Pruitt was glad to relax and watch his friends compete. “Overall I was happy with my personal performance,” he said. “I think most of us were happy.”

The cast of Arsenic and Old Lace on stage in Lesesne Auditorium

Pruitt had special praise for DeVault, who directed the Erskine Players in Arsenic and Old Lace in the fall and coached the students attending the competition. “I think she is the main reason we did so well,” he said.

“She drove us,” he added. “It takes the skill and experience and passion that Ms. DeVault has to do that.”

Alpha Psi Omega members want to follow up on Erskine’s success at SCSTA by promoting theater on campus this spring.

“We participate in events such as ‘Erskine’s Got Talent,’” Pruitt said. “We have pieces prepared that could be used in the competition or as entertainment during breaks in the competition.”

The group hopes to bring back Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve, which was performed on campus when this year’s seniors were freshmen. “We are planning to have alumni performing with us,” Pruitt said. “Five have committed so far.”

A directing class taught by Michael Genevie, executive and artistic director of the Abbeville Opera House, will be performing scenes this spring, and this could be done in conjunction with another theater event, Pruitt said.

Requests for a repeat performance of “CLUE-Erskine Edition” are being considered. “We turn Lesesne into ‘Lesesne Mansion’ and have members of APO dress up as characters. We play the game as if all the game pieces and scenarios are real life.”

Also being discussed is the possibility of a 24-hour theater festival with the APO chapter at Lander University in Greenwood. “You write a play, cast it, practice it, and are ready to perform it in 24 hours,” Pruitt explained. “We’ll be working out specifics with Lander.”

This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, APO “ValenGrams” will be offered. “All of us are singers,” Pruitt said.

APO officers, in addition to Pruitt, include Rebecca Pearson and Laura Walenceus, co-vice presidents; Tillary Blackman, secretary; and Gil Snowden, president.


Erskine and Due West Skyline

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