Theatre brings home gold in one-act competition


Ben Schneider

The cast of the Night Witches rehearses ahead of their competition.

Ben Schneider, Editor

On Feb. 19, Theatre on the Hill won the VHSL Regional Theater competition and earned a spot in the state competition.

The Cavaliers performed Night Witches, which is a tragedy set during World War II. Theater teacher Carli Wilkerson chose the concept back in early December and the team practiced for its presentation until the day of the competition. 

The Night Witches is a play based on the true story of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment in Russia during WWII,” Wilkerson said. “It follows this group of incredibly tough women that fought against the Nazis in these incredibly small sortie planes. It follows the fateful night of two of the women’s first flights and the tragedies that ensued that night.”

Wilkerson felt that both the tragic nature of the play and its message would resonate with the audience. 

“This show spoke to me because while reading it I just felt so much for these brave women,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a bigger show than I usually do for one acts, but I think that only adds more power to the message.”

Senior Riot Gradillas views Night Witches as a meaningful play to perform because of its unique characteristics. 

“I really like how it doesn’t have a happy ending,” Gradillas said. “In real life they didn’t all live and it felt like we honored them by telling the story of what it was really like.”

Theatre on the Hill beat six other schools in the competition at L.C. Bird with their performance. Gradillas, like the entire team, felt elated when they found out the results. 

“It felt great to win,” Gradillas said. “Wilkerson took the results email off of my screen so we didn’t see when she did, but she screamed and we all started screaming and crying. It felt so good to know that we succeeded.” 

Freshman Libbie Radgowski feels that the victory was the result of the team’s constant preparation. 

“We had rehearsals nearly every day after school,” Radgowski said. “The Thursday before regionals we had an invitational dress rehearsal where family and friends could come watch us perform, which was helpful because we received feedback from outside eyes.”

Gradillas agrees that rehearsing for weeks was crucial, causing them to feel confident heading into the competition.

“We worked really, really hard and we walked in really hopeful, but we were super nervous; once we got into the swing of the show I felt like our performance was as strong as it could have been,” Gradillas said. 

Following regionals, the cast now has until March 5th to prepare for the state competition in the hopes of another victory. Gradillas believes the lessons from the first performance can carry over into the next. 

“We’ve done a lot of self-reflection and a lot of going over the notes from the judges,” Gradillas said. “We’re open to trying new things and new set arrangements to improve.” 

According to Wilkerson, Theatre on the Hill has had success in the one-act competition before, especially in the last few years. They are seeking their first win at states in their second appearance. 

“In 2018 we won sectionals and were able to move onto regionals,” Wilkerson said. “The year after, in 2019, we placed 3rd at sectionals, which meant we were not moving on. And in 2020, we won both sectionals and regionals and were able to go onto the state competition, which was the first time [Clover Hill] has ever been to states for theatre so it was a big deal. We got 4th place at states in 2020.”

Radgowski has confidence that the improvements will pay off when the Cavaliers take the stage at states again. 

“States is a big deal, so naturally I’m pretty nervous, but I’m confident in the cast and feel like we can win,” Radgowski said. 

Theatre on the Hill will perform in the Class 5 one-act state championship on March 5 in Charlottesville.

State competition results:

The Cavaliers received 2nd place honors at states, which is the highest finish in school history. Sarah Craft and Riot Gradillas earned commendations for their acting, joining Laurel Bennett, who collected the honor at regionals.