Monticello students and Tony award winning teacher share a play for a new scholarship fund

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:49 PM EST
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - There are some new playwrights in Albemarle County. A group of high school students are showing off both their acting, and writing skills this week.

Four Monticello High School students spent most of the pandemic crafting their original play “Unhinged.” With the help from a Tony award winning teacher, their play is now coming to life.

“One of the joys was meeting, you know, every Monday and Wednesday night with these kids over Zoom, and having them come up with these ideas,” Drama Teacher Madeline Michel said. “And you know, we threw up a lot of against the wall before we came up with the exact thing that they wanted to write about.”

The students chose a story about perspective. It tells the tale of a mother forcing her beliefs on to her daughter, according to the student writers. They say the young girl is just trying to find her own voice, and form her own opinions. Her older cousin helps influence this idea.

“Young people get a lot of their information from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, all that,” Senior at Monticello High School Maggie Mclaughlin said. “They also are influenced by their family and by their friends. But just because the people you’re around, or the things that you’re exposed to, have certain opinions, you don’t have to believe the same things.”

The students started writing the story almost a year ago, as a one minute play project. They say it has evolved a lot since then, after many nights spent editing on Zoom together.

“To me, there’s nothing more exciting than then kids finding their own voice and their own agency, and then going out there and influencing the community,” Michel said.

The plot of this play is unique. Monticello High School hasn’t done anything like this one before, but the theme itself, of a societal issue, is reoccurring. Drama students are assigned to write an original act every year.

“I think it all comes down to the same idea of young people, usually these plays revolve around young people, finding their voice and finding out what it is that they’ll fight for,” Michel said. “What it is, that’s important enough to them to take a stand.”

Admission to the play is free, but donations are encouraged for a special cause, close to the hearts of those in Monticello High School’s theater.

“There’s a suggested donation to the Gwen Tupelo Memorial Fund,” Senior at Monticello High School Eden Radifera said. “It’s a scholarship for a student in our drama department who may be financially struggling but still wants to go to college.”

Gwen Tupelo was a student at Monticello who graduated in 2019. She was heavily involved in the drama department as a writer, actress and director. She passed away in a car accident in May 2021.

“We always do some kind of scholarship fund. the difference is that we are naming it this time,” Michele said. “After a person, who was so critically important to our community... I think about her all the time, and she would love this play.”

The play opens Thursday night at Monticello High School and will run through Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged to help with the Gwen Tupelo Scholarship Fund.

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