TJ Drama places second at Conference 13 Theatre Festival, advances to Regionals


Photo courtesy of Misha Ryjik

Seniors Kira Becker (left) and Misha Ryjik (right) starred in “I Dream before I Take the Stand.”

Ellen Kan, Print Editor-in-Chief

On Jan. 24, TJ Drama competed in the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Conference 13 Theatre Festival. Seniors Kira Becker and Misha Ryjik starred in “I Dream before I Take the Stand,” a one-act play directed by English teacher and program director Vincent Pollet. Becker and Ryjik’s performance earned Jefferson second place at the competition behind George C. Marshall High School.

“Acting is always very subjective, meaning there is a little bit of randomness to judging competitions, so I was super excited and felt incredibly lucky,” Becker said. “I’m really glad that the judges were moved by our performance.”

By finishing second at Conferences, TJ Drama will move on to Regionals for only the third time in Jefferson history. This was not an easy accomplishment, however, as the actors overcame several obstacles along the way. One major challenge was the time crunch for preparing the play, which was also complicated by snow days.

“We were notified that we’d be performing for the competition basically two weeks in advance,” Ryjik said, referring to a last-minute change regarding which play the drama department would send to the Conference 13 Theatre Festival. “Everybody involved in the production worked really hard in those two weeks, and I’m proud to say we pulled it off.”

Pollet initially prepared “I Dream before I Take the Stand” for the 2012-2013 school year, but inclement weather and subsequent schedule conflicts prevented the promising play from entering the competition. Pollet had high hopes when he resurrected the play for this year.

“Misha and Kira are both exemplary actors,” Pollet said. “They really play off each other well; I noticed that in the auditions. That’s what you’re always looking for: chemistry between the actors.”

“I Dream before I Take the Stand,” provided both actors with challenging roles. The play follows a woman (Becker), identified only as “She,” who prepares to take the stand as a victim of sexual assault. “She” has meaningful, emotional exchanges with a male character of ambiguous identity (Ryjik), known as “He.”

“My favorite part about acting in this show is the interaction with my co-star, Kira,” Ryjik, who was one of nine actors to be named to the all-star cast, said. “She’s a tremendous actress, and I think we work really well together. Because we’ve performed a lot together, it’s easy to be comfortable with her on stage in a really, really uncomfortable show.”

The VHSL Region 5A-North Theatre Festival will take place on Feb. 7 at Massaponax High School. Currently, Becker and Ryjik are working to strengthen their performance based on feedback from the judges at Conferences.

“I personally love hearing critiques because actors don’t really get that opportunity to help themselves improve very often,” Becker said. “I think we are going to make certain moments stronger on all ends of the spectrum – defensive, sympathetic, upset, relieved – just to show the change and exemplify the differences.”

At Regionals, Jefferson will compete against Albemarle, Broad Run, Freedom, Halifax, Marshall, Massaponax and Mountain View High Schools. Of the eight schools, only one will move on to the state competition. TJ Drama has yet to move past Regionals, but they hope that “I Dream before I Take the Stand” will be the game changer.

“We believe that we have a really good chance of winning based on both our performance and the substance of the play,” Ryjik said. “We’re improving the show in a variety of ways. Most importantly, we’re trying to ensure that the audience receives every little detail and stays connected with the emotional journey of the show.”