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Hillcrest High Earns Eighth State Championship in Theatre

Doubt the stars are fire, the sun doth move, and truth to be a liar. But never doubt the preeminence of Hillcrest High’s Theatre Department, which has earned its 8th State Championship in Theatre.


All 25 of Hillcrest’s pieces, one ensemble piece and 24 individual events, qualified at regionals to move on to state. According to its size, Hillcrest is a 4A school, but the Theatre department competes at the 5A level.


“I’m always floored by the skill of kids my age,” says Hillcrest senior Austin Beals. “For me, it’s the most educational part of the year. You learn a lot more about being an actor in general. The Shakespeare team at the beginning of the year and regionals at the end of the year are the periods of time where I grow the most as an artist.”


Across 30 schools at the championships, more than 500 pieces are performed before the judges. Each school puts on an ensemble act and students have the option of competing in the individual event where they can perform a contemporary scene, classical scene, pantomimes, musical theater piece, or a humorous or dramatic monologue. For the ensemble or one act piece, the Huskies took more than nine hours of theater from The James Plays Trilogy and condensed it into one act, less than an hour long. For their efforts, they took home first place and two performers, Gabriel Williams and Mary Willhite received Outstanding Performance awards for their portrayals of King James I and Queen Joan.


“Art is objective,” says Williams, “So to have all of these judges scoring you individually and as a group, it equates to the amount of work you put in as a team.”


Beyond taking first place in the ensemble piece, the students set a goal at the beginning of the year to achieve an overall state championship sweepstakes score of 1,475 out of a possible 1,500 — a target they reached and Hillcrest’s highest score ever at the competition.


“They set a goal that was almost impossible and too lofty,” says Hillcrest theater teacher Joshua Long, “but we were stubborn and refused to change.”


As the year progressed, Long watched his students work hard during shows as well as at regionals. “After regionals, a lot of the time students might not be as focused, but they swept regionals and worked so hard to help each other. They focused on the team score and I really love that about them,” Long says.


Taking top marks in the ensemble piece was the icing on the cake for a historic year. Long worked for nearly 10 years to get the rights to perform The James Plays for the first time in America. “I was not expecting The James Plays to win first place,” he says. “It kind of puts a nice bookend on the whole year, which I loved that experience so much.”


All of the students who competed say state championships was an opportunity to grow. “You bond with people when you spend this much time with them,” says junior Ellie Spilker. “It gives you a great community and teaches you how to have empathy for others. Even if you’re not going into theater after high school, it gives you a lot of really helpful life skills.”


Williams echoes Spilker, saying theater is an important part of education, beyond the practical skills it allows students to “learn about the human soul.”


The Huskies are already hard at work on their next show, Sister Act: The Musical. The curtain is set to rise on the singing nuns May 16-18. Tickets are on sale here. The cast of the school’s Fall performance, Into the Woods, will also perform at the Utah High School Musical Theater Awards on May 4, tickets can be purchased here.



2023-24 UHSAA 5A State Theater Champions


·      1st Place Overall Sweepstakes

·      1st Place One-Act Play: The James Plays

*Outstanding Performance in a One-Act Play: Gabe Williams & Mary Willhite as King James I & Queen Joan, The James Plays

·      1st Place Humorous Monologue: Gabe Williams, Accidental Death of an Anarchist (coached by Ethan Boothe)

·      1st Place Classical Scene: Maile Gonzalez/Nayantara Nair/Munashe Tanjani, Dr. Faustus (Coached by Maddie Coleman & Anika Mukherjee)

·      2nd Place Dramatic Monologue TIE: Eliza Williams, Appropriate (coached by Laelia Raleigh)

·      2nd Place Dramatic Monologue TIE: Maxwell Sperry, Patriots (coached by Finley Kirk)

·      3rd Place Classical Scene: Lucas Fife/Abdul Khan/Ryan Rasch, Ajax (coached by Sarah Baird)

·      2nd Place Scenic Design: Wesley Arbon, Sweeney Todd

·      3rd Place Costume Design: Elise Parry, A Doll’s House


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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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