Gary High School’s One-Act troupe made school history when they advanced from area to region, and then again when they made it to state.

Although they wound up making seventh place at state, the student performers and crew were excited and satisfied with the success they earned by making it to the state competition in 2A UIL One-Act Play.

“I expected us to be a lot more nervous, and everyone was just really confident and ready to go, and we went out there, and it was our best performance of the year by far,” said Cade Coligan, senior and lead actor in the play.

The cast may have been at a disadvantage because of performance order. Out of eight schools who made it to state in the 2A division, “Crime and Punishment,” Gary High School’s play, went first. Michael Powell, principal and director of the play, said that that in the 91 year history of UIL One-Act Play, only five shows that went first in performance order won first place — and with multiple divisions in UIL, Powell estimated there’s been about 400 total state champions. In addition, Powell said the last slot in performance order wins 17 percent of the time.

“We knew we gave our best performance, we knew that we left it all out there, and there’s not a more calming feeling you can have then knowing that whatever place you get, you could not have done any better,” Coligan said. “... I mean of course performance order and everything plays a role, but we knew that going in, so (in terms of) everyone that ranked above us, there is nothing we could have done to rank higher. We did everything we possibly could have, and that gives you a real feeling of contentment after the show.”

Getting to the state competition took a lot of hard work and hours upon hours of practice. It also took rest.

“I have a saying: You have to work when people aren’t working; you have to work harder than everyone when everyone’s working,” Powell said. “So we probably had about 200, last time I counted it was about 200 rehearsal hours, and then I added to that saying this year, that you have to rest when everyone else is working, because we actually got to where if we kept working it would get stale, so like between regional and state, we only rehearsed 8 hours in that two week period... I think we would have been worse if we had rehearsed every day, we wouldn’t have been as fresh.”

Getting to state was something was something they had wanted for a long time, and junior Sarolyn Musick had originally thought it would feel unnatural. Her mind changed once they accomplished it.

“Since we’ve gotten state, I felt like it was just natural for us,” she said. “...Going to state, it was just this big thing that we all wanted for so long, and I knew we were good enough to do it, but I don’t think we ever put in that much effort until this year, like we’d never felt something so amazing, and then getting to state, it was just like, yeah, we belong here... and we want everybody to know it, so it was just a blessing to get there.”

From competition to competition, the student actors evolved and improved in their roles.

Musick reflected on how she kept being told to play her character Alyona as mean — but this note actually hindered her more than it helped her.

‘After we hit area or regional, we finally realize, she doesn’t really have to be mean but more belittling,” Musick said. “She needs to put him lower than her, and my character, she’s not mean, she just knows what she wants and she’s not going to let anybody get in her way of it, so she’s kind of head honcho.”

Dylan Essery, a sophomore who portrayed an old man named Porfiry, realized along the way that he didn’t need a certain prop. He even got his first acting award of the season after discarding it, making all-star cast at the area competition.

“Losing the cane was the biggest blessing of my life,” he said. “At first I had a cane to display the age of the character and that he was older, but eventually we scrapped that because for me I felt it was kind of holding me back, and Mr. Powell just thought it would be a better idea to get rid of it. I’m glad we got rid of it because after we got rid of it I was able to focus on how I was talking and the way I was delivering my lines more than what I was doing physically.”

From 2 a.m. Waffle House trips to carrying around a small prop door as a mascot, the cast grew closer together on their journey to state. Musick said that one of the best things about getting to state were the relationships built along the way.

“Within each other it’s the relationships, and it’s also the relationships with each other’s family,” she said. “Like while we were at state, Mr. Powell’s daughter Molly spent the night with us, and she’s just like our little sister, so I think it’s nice, the relationships we’ve built, and it’s nice that the community’s supporting us now.”