Rockdale County High School student Samantha Greene talks to her fish in a scene from “Will and Whimsy: Sixteen Dramatically Different Illustrated Sonnets of Shakespeare,” which took second place in the Georgia High School Association One-Act Play Competition.
When Heritage High School Theater Director Michelle Thorne cast her students in "The Boys Next Door," a play about special needs adults, she had faith they would embrace the challenging roles.
"I chose the play because of the talent that I had in my students and the maturity of my students. I felt like they could fully develop the characters and handle it with sensitivity," Thorne said.
Thorne's intuition and the students' dedication paid off recently as "The Boys Next Door" took first place in the region at the Georgia High School Association One-Act Play Competition.
Thorne said Heritage has come in first or second place in the region for the last seven years.
"You never quite get used to it; you never know what's going to happen," Thorne said. "I was just very happy that the students' efforts were rewarded."
"The Boys Next Door" is about four mentally challenged men and the social worker who looks after them in their home.
"I'm always glad to get the message of 'The Boys Next Door' around because it says we are far more alike than we are different. We all have special needs and have a special place in the community," Thorne said.
President of the New Depot Players community theater troupe Jay Tryall stepped in to help direct "The Boys Next Door" for the One-Act Competition.
"We really focused on the characters and the acting," Tryall said. "The thing is those characters are so likable and you really root for them throughout the show. It's hard not to like the plot and the characters."
Tryall said he didn't know how the group would place at the competition.
"I absolutely had no idea. I've been a judge for One-Act for three years and I told the students go in and focus on having true characters and true responses to the situations going on," Tryall said.
Heritage competed against nine other schools, including Rockdale County High School and Salem High School, in the regionals.
Rockdale County High School took second place in the competition with their production of, "Will and Whimsy: Sixteen Dramatically Different Illustrated Sonnets of Shakespeare" and won best ensemble cast.
"Will and Whimsy" is a series of scenes in which a narrator, dressed in Elizabethan clothing, recites a Shakespeare sonnet, and characters act out the sonnet using modern-day speech and situations.
Rockdale County High School Theater Director Gus Godbee said he chose the work because of its range of subject matter.
For example, one scene is about an older couple still in love after years of marriage, while another is about girls fighting over a piece of candy.
"We wanted something that would touch on a lot of different emotions," said Godbee, who was aided in directing the show by Dave DiPietro.
Godbee said the One-Act Regionals are competitive with counties such as Clark, Barrow, DeKalb and Habersham participating.
"I was hopeful that we would do a good show," Godbee said. "I always tell the students that if you do a good show and you're proud of what you do, then that's all you can ask for."