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Lakeview Academy wins One Act competition
College prep day school claims state championship title
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Ashmal Ali, Kelly Holt Harrison and Erin Lyles are Harold Fonda, the Tuxedo Man; Julia Sullivan; and a bride, respectively, in Lakeview Academy’s production of “The Wedding Singer,” performed last week at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium. - photo by NAT GURLEY

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Best actor: Eli Bennett

Best actress: Georgia Whitehead

All-Star cast: Casandra Chesneau and Addison Hicks


Best actor: Eli Bennett

Best actress: Kelly Holt Harrison

Best supporting actress: Casandra Chesneau

All-Star cast: Georgia Whitehead and Christian Reinhardt

Other awards: Best choreography and best crew

For the first time in the school’s 43-year history, Lakeview Academy claimed a state championship title for a one-act play.

The college prep day school won a prestigious first-place award for acting at the 2013 One Act Play Competition on Nov. 9 in Warner Robins. Lakeview competed twice before, in 1998 and 2005, but never placed first.

“It was school history to make first place,” theater director Cece Conrath said. “It’s been a long time coming and it just validates all of the hard work the kids and us have put in.”

The Gainesville-based school won the Class A championship for private schools for its rendition of “The Wedding Singer,” an adaptation of the 1998 comedy with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. In addition, four students received individual awards: senior Eli Bennett for best actor, sophomore Georgia Whitehead for best actress; and senior Casandra Chesneau and junior Addison Hicks were named to the All-Star cast.

“I was really surprised,” Chesneau said. “There are so many good actors and actresses out there. It just made me feel like I was doing the right things.”

Organized by the Georgia High School Association, the competition required schools to put on a play in a strict 55-minute time frame, which includes setup, performance and takedown. Strict penalties are applied to productions that exceed the limit.

To qualify for the state competition this year, the school faced various challenges including a large cast. With 52 students participating, the cast comprised almost one-fourth of the school’s 224 students, who spent many hours after school and during weekends rehearsing. The school also has no formal theater, forcing students to practice on a small stage in the cafeteria.

Lakeview also had to win the regional competition before advancing to the state contest. Lakeview represented GHSA’s Region 8 in the competition, an area including 13 private high schools across Northeast Georgia. The region is well-known for its fierce competition and high-quality theater programs.

“We have one of the hardest regions in the state,” Bennett said. “The competition is crazy, and the shows we see are amazing. So, it’s been really hard for us to make it past region, but that made this one of my favorite moments this year. We finally made it to state and achieved what we thought we deserved.”

After winning the state title, the tired cast and crew returned to Gainesville to perform the full-length version of the play at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium. The first performance took place less than three days after the championship. The final night attracted more than 400 attendants, the biggest audience in Lakeview history.

“We had to get that together in two days,” Bennett said. “That was interesting, but the audience just loved it.

“It was great. People were lively and happy, and that makes a world of difference for the actor.”

Lakeview has two more upcoming shows this school year. In March, it will perform the play “Godspell” and in May, it will put on the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Additionally, three of the school’s theater students will participate in the All-State Show at the Georgia Thespian Conference in February.

As for Bennett and Chesneau, they plan attend college to pursue acting. Bennett hopes to obtain a master’s degree in education and become a theater teacher as well.