Category Archives: Arts

Eagles Bring Home Top Honors at Thespian Festival

Troupe 6405 earned four “Top Honors” awards, two “Superior” awards, and numerous “Excellent” awards

By Tori Kitchens

On Dec. 4, the Upper School’s theater department traveled to Lake Minneola High School to compete in the District 12 Thespian Festival and returned home with great success. This festival occurred for the first time since 2019, so the Eagles were very excited to return to competition. “It has been so long since I have been around a large group of people all doing what they love to do, and I felt all day that everyone was just as excited as me to be back in person for live theater events,” said Lower School Music Teacher and accompanist Erin Cushing.

After months of preparation, Oak Hall’s Thespians, Troupe 6405, brought 201 events to the festival: five monologues, five solo musical pieces, four duet acting pieces, two duet musical pieces, two ensemble acting pieces, one small group musical piece, one student choreography, and one student directed. “What surprised me the most was that our acts uniquely represented us with our humor and silliness, and I think other troupes were slightly more somber than usual, so it was nice to see that we were just able to sit back and enjoy it,” noted Upper School Theater Co-Director Dr. Dominique Clance.

The Eagles competed from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. After the final event, the troupe learned that it received a Top Honor: the highest score in their event room. Senior Jennifer Berthy and sophomore Katelyn Berthy got “Top Honors for Duet Musical”, “Single Man Drought” from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

The Berthy sisters, however, weren’t the only “Top Honors” winners from OHS. Senior Peyton Nembhard won “Top Honors for Student Choreography” to a piece from the musical Kinky Boots. This was Oak Hall’s first entry in this category since the troupe’s inception. Seniors Julia Curtis and Kaylee Rowe, and sophomore Annika Quanbeck received “Top Honors Ensemble Acting” for their piece titled, “Barbies.” Finally, the troupe’s small group musical, “Haus of Holbein” from the musical Six, received Top Honors. The actors in this piece were Katelyn Berthy, Quanbeck, Rowe, Nembhard, junior Christina Sarantos, and freshman Lilia AitSahlia. “I am so proud of them!  We haven’t had any Top Honors/Critic’s Choice in several years, and their hard work paid off,” said Upper School Theater Director, Brooke Molitor. 

Oak Hall Troupe 6405

Winning “Top Honors” gives the actors an opportunity to perform their pieces at the event’s closing ceremony. Oak Hall won the most top scores out of any troupe. “Not one, not two, not three, but four Top Honors!” Molitor emphasized. “This district has some of the most competitive schools and as another director emailed me, our students “totally dominated” the festival.” This was the best that Oak Hall’s troupe had done at the district level since 2016. 

In addition to the four “Top Honors” recipients, there were two more “Superior” scores, which is the highest score level. Sarantos and fellow junior Bailey Thorp received superior on their duet musical, “The Actuary Song” from I Love You Because, and Jennifer Berthy and Rowe received superior for their duet acting title “Stepsisters”. The remaining 14 events received the next best score, “Excellent”.

Troupe 6405 will travel to Tampa in March to compete at the State Thespian Festival. “This is the largest Thespian Festival in the country, and it is a very busy few days filled with shows, masterclasses, workshops, and the competition,” Molitor explained. “Students will start rehearsing again after Winter Break and implementing the constructive feedback from the judges.”

Congratulations Eagles! 

Senior Spotlight: Akhila Nataraj

Oak Hall’s Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) allows students to expand their creativity in their given study (art, music, or theater). In an effort to make this year special for Oak Hall’s senior ACP students, we created A-Z questions for them to answer. We hope you enjoy!

By August Ewert-Harpold

A – What is some advice you would give your freshman self?
I would tell her to enjoy high school and not just focus on getting into college but enjoy the friendships that you’re able to make.
B – What was your best ACP moment?
My best ACP moment probably is in tenth grade when I did a 17-person ensemble, and just at the end when we all ended the last note, I looked at all 17 people and I just felt a lot of pride for what I had done.
C – What are your career goals?
I want to go to med school, so I want to enter the medical field while still practicing music and keeping that part of myself. 
D – What is your favorite dessert? 
 Probably like a lava cake or something with a nice dollop of ice cream.
E – What was your most entertaining rehearsal?
Probably in ninth grade. It was my first time accompanying someone on an ACP recital and it was just a bunch of seniors, and I was like a shy, timid, little ninth-grader and the entire rehearsal I finally saw who they really were and it was just them cursing and making joke. I had no idea what to expect but it was really fun!
F – What are your future plans for your craft?
In regard to music I would just like to develop my theory skills and start working on more compositions. 
G – What are your goals for senior year?
My goal for senior year is to have a really good basketball season and have a very successful ACP recital. 
H – Which college are you hoping to attend?
I’m applying to a couple, but my main goal right now is to try to get into the UF Honors program.
I – What is something Interesting about you that is not related to your music?
I have a 25-year-old sister (who turns 26 today) and I also have a nine-year-old brother, so I have a very stretched out family. 
J – What is your favorite joke?
I’m always a fan for a very cheesy pickup line but I think my favorite joke is when someone complains that it is too hot outside I say, “It’s because I’m there.”
K – What are some of your keys for maintaining the homework load?
Don’t procrastinate and its ok to allocate time for yourself but make sure you’re not just doing that.
L – What is your least favorite style of music?
I’ve got to say country, I’m just not a fan! 
M – What is your favorite style of music/what type of music do you listen to?
Anything but country? I’ll listen to Pop, or Contemporary, or I’ll dabbel with classical music. You know I’m a big fan of Kpop, so I’ll stand by BTS.
N – Do you prefer Netflix or Hulu?
The only thing I’ll watch on Hulu is Brooklyn 99 but right now I’m really binging Grey’s [Anatomy] on Netflix, so I think I’ve got to go with Netflix.  
O – What is one of your outside hobbies besides your music?
I really like arts and crafts, I really like sewing and crocheting and knitting, and I have a very big yarn collection that I am very proud of. 
P – What are your preparations for a big concert?
Don’t finish your arrangement the week before. 
Q – What is a question you would ask your future self?
My future self? How did you manage to stop procrastinating and start focusing on your studies? 
R – What is the most relaxing part of your day?
Probably the 10 minutes after my shower when my hair is drying, and I use that as time to go on my phone. It’s very therapeutic. 
S – What would your senior superlative be?
Most likely to spend their college tuition on food.
T – What is your favorite TV show?
The Amazing Race.
U – What do you think is the most underrated pet?
I will take this to my grave, cats are better than dogs, you can’t fight me on this.
V – What is your favorite vacation spot?
I mean I’m all about that staycation life, but probably like just going to the beach and relaxing, I guess.
W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle?
Being an Eagle means taking advantage of all of the opportunities presented to you and giving your 100 percent.
X – Have you ever had any X-rays?
No but I have lots of scars from mosquito bites. 
Y – What do you believe your impact is on younger musicians?
Be confident in your craft and don’t be afraid to make mistakes because everyone has been there before.
Z – What is your favorite zoo animal?
Probably a panda!

Senior Spotlight: Anya AitSahlia

Oak Hall’s Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) allows students to expand their creativity in their given study (art, music, or theater). In an effort to make this year special for Oak Hall’s senior ACP students, we created A-Z questions for them to answer. We hope you enjoy!

By Lucas Walters

A – Advice you’d give your freshman-self? Trust yourself.
B – Best ACP moment? Probably any of the rehearsals for school musicals because of how beautifully chaotic they are.
C – Career goals? To be happy and to get really invested in what I’m doing. But I don’t know what I want to do yet.
D – Favorite dessert? Freshly baked cookies.
E – Most entertaining rehearsal? Well, this wasn’t really a rehearsal but in theory one day there were a bunch of wasps and Akhila and Asher were chasing them down with the alcohol spray bottles and that was hilarious.
F – Future plans for your craft? I definitely want to keep experimenting with different styles and work on composing music myself, but wherever I feel like going, I’ll go with my music.
G – Goals for your senior year? I really want to try to make myself uncomfortable with the music I play. Again, with the idea of trying new things and experimenting with different styles of music.
H – Hoping to attend (which college)? Anywhere but here. But, I’m not sure where I’ll end up. I just hope to get out of Gainesville.
I – Interesting thing about you away from your music/theater ability? I am a secret cheese connoisseur.
J – Favorite joke? Anything that’s corny. One of my favorites is, ‘What did the pirate say on his 80th birthday? Aye matey!’
K – Keys to maintaining homework? Write everything down and make sure you read it all, so you do it all.
L – Least favorite music/musical/art style? I don’t know. I like all music.
M – Music you listen to? Right now, I’m listening to lots of Billie Eilish and her brother Phineas, but again, I’m open to anything.
N – Netflix or Hulu? Netflix.
O – Outside hobbies (other than your art)? I love biking and also doing calligraphy.
P – Preparations for a big performance/concert? I definitely need caffeine and I usually like to watch a little bit of a TV show or something to de-stress before the performance.
Q – Question you would ask your future self? Did you figure out what you want to do with your life?
R – Most relaxing part of your day? I think singing with my sister on the drive home from school.
S – What would your senior superlative be? I’m not sure. I like to laugh and smile, so maybe best smile or something like that.
T – Favorite TV show? Right now, I’m re-watching Stranger Things so I’ll say that’s my favorite for now.
U – Most underrated pet? Guinea pig.
V – Favorite vacation spot? Definitely Iceland.
W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? Mostly being able to really dive into my passions in this community where we have a great support network of peers and teachers.
X – Any X-rays? No. Knock on wood though.
Y – Your impact to the younger musicians/artists/thespians? I really just hope to show them that it’s all about balance and balancing your dedication, effort, and really having fun so that you make the most out of your life as a musician.
Z – Favorite zoo animal? Otters. They’re super cute.

Senior Spotlight: Henry Palmer

Oak Hall’s Arts Conservatory Program (ACP) allows students to expand their creativity in their given study (art, music, or theater). In an effort to make this year special for Oak Hall’s senior ACP students, we created A-Z questions for them to answer. We hope you enjoy!

By Jenna Poppell

A – Advice you’d give your freshman-self? Honestly, get into ACP earlier. Find the motivation to do art.
B – Best ACP moment?  
I don’t know, just drawing in my room, I guess. I don’t really have a particular moment.
C – Career goals? 
I don’t really have any career goals that pertain to art.
D – Favorite dessert? 
Vanilla cake.
E – Most entertaining art show? 
I’ve never really been to an art show.
F – Future plans for your craft? 
Just get better at it.
G – Goals for your senior year? 
Improve my art.
H – Hoping to attend (which college)? UF, FSU, UCF
I – Interesting thing about you away from your artistic ability?  I like to cook.
J – Favorite joke? What do you call a pile of cats? A meow-rain.
K – Keys to maintaining homework? The grind.
L – Least favorite art style? Crayon.
M – Music you listen to? Blaze Bars.
N – Netflix or Hulu? Netflix
O – Outside hobbies (other than your art)? I like to cook.
P – Preparations for a big showing? Just drawing, practicing. Drawing the same image multiple times until I get it right.
Q – Question you would ask your future self? How do you die?
R – Most relaxing part of your day? Going home.
S – What would your senior superlative be? I don’t even know what that is. Most raw!
T – Favorite TV show? Breaking Bad
U – Most underrated pet? Chameleon.
V – Favorite vacation spot? Arizona.
W – What does it mean to you to be an Eagle? Eagle wave.
X – Any X-rays? Any X- Rays? Uh no.
Y – Your impact to the younger artists at oak hall? Jake what’s my impact? I mean everything to those kids
Z – Favorite zoo animal? Monkey.

ACP In the Era of COVID

By Emily Malloy

In 2010, Oak Hall created a program called the Arts Conservatory Program (ACP).  ACP is an advanced track program that allows students to concentrate in theater, music, or visual arts. The students prepare and preform music, art, or theater pieces for their peers, which is rehearsed until the piece is perfected. Normally on performance days, Upper School students, faculty, and staff visit the Cofrin Arts Gallery during lunch period on Friday’s and watch the performances. 

This school year, however, things have switched up a lot for these programs. Upper School music teacher Dr. Dominique Clance says that ACP recitals, for right now, will be virtual. For music ACP recitals, students will record their pieces live using a video camera, including whatever setup they need around them. The only exception is for the singer who will be in a different room. Students only have one opportunity to record their performance, just like they would if they were doing it live. “The reason we allow one ‘take’ is because in normal ACP format, the students only have one ‘live’ performance,” Dr. Clance noted. “This will hopefully preserve the integrity of the recital process so that students still feel a lot of the same feelings as they would if they were performing live,” she continued. Once Upper and Middle School music teacher Jason Stahl edits the entire recital to include a theater or art presentation, it will be presented to the Oak Hall community. 

As the students create their works, it is uploaded to the ACP website, which can be found here!