The cast and crew of Miller Metro Prep made history for their campus by taking home first place at Corpus Christi ISD's UIL One Act Play last month.
Competing against five other middle schools in CCISD on Nov. 18 at Veterans Memorial High School, Metro Prep also took home awards including All Star Cast, Best Technician and Best Performer.
Crystal Costadoni, head theater director, said the tournament was an amazing experience because it was the first year for all of her students competing in One Act.
"The Metro program is only for seventh and eighth graders, and last year they couldn't compete due to COVID," Costadoni said. "None of them have any One Act experience, so when we said we were doing a competition play they were all a little nervous. I think they got the hang of it at the end."
The play the students performed was "The Great Pandemonium." It deals with a high school performance of "Richard III" and everything that could go wrong at tech rehearsal, goes wrong.
"It is very meta," Costadoni said. "There's a character who is the director of the show and I think it's almost hurtful how much he knows how to play a director. I don't know where he got his inspiration from."
Costadoni is joking about her student Austin Martinez, an eighth grader who won Top Performer. Martinez has worked on theater productions before at Harbor Playhouse, so he was familiar with the acting process.
"For the first competition I was nervous, but after we did our run-through I felt more confident," Martinez said. "It's just like this stage, but bigger."
When he found out his school won, and he won an individual award, Martinez said he was proud.
"I thought that was really cool," Martinez said. "I was shocked and surprised. It means a lot."
Costadoni said awards were announced that evening via Zoom. She said she called Sandy Salinas-DeLeon, the school principal, crying because of how excited she was.
"It took me a moment to realize it was good news and not some tragedy," Salinas-DeLeon said. "She literally could not get the words out of her mouth. She was telling me, 'I'm so sorry I'm calling you so late!' I didn't know what happened and was freaking out."
Salinas-DeLeon said once she was able to understand what Costadoni was telling her, she was jumping up with joy while her husband looked at her oddly.
This is the first year Salinas-DeLeon is leading Miller High School. She said she is proud of her students and credits Costadoni for developing a great connection with them to show how talented the school's theater program is.
"I knew she could develop links with our kids," Salinas-DeLeon said. "Having that connection and showing them what they are able to do is really important and encompasses everything we have to offer at Miller."
Tech students Ray Lozano and Precious Noland both said the play was challenging and nerve-wracking doing behind-the-scenes work. Lozano took home the award for Best Technician.
"It was fun, but a little scary," Lozano said. "I didn't want to mess up because it's a lot easier to notice a tech mistake than an actor messing up. They could just improve, we can't."
Savannah Sidor, the technical theater director, said working with student technicians was a proud moment for her because they were able to adapt quickly to changes.
"They worked so hard and put in so many hours that it's unbelievable," Sidor said.
Salinas-DeLeon said her goal at Miller is to develop students that are well-rounded. She said the arts are an important factor for each student and hopes they realize that.
"Not only do you have to have the academic and analytical parts, you also need to have that artistic view," Salinas-DeLeon said. "You need to be able to relate to anything no matter what environment you're in. Them having these connections will be for their best benefit."
Michael Gomez, a seventh grader that also took home the award for Top Performer, said he understands the artistic view of theater.
"I've always loved theater," Gomez said. "I've been in love with it since I saw my first show at Harbor in 2014. I just like the idea of live performances with the technical things going on behind-the-scenes. I love the concept of theater."
Gomez, like Martinez, is a "Harbor kid" and started performing in 2018 during the production of "A Christmas Carol." He said when he's on stage, he feels like a different person.
"I feel like I get to shine and have the spotlight on me," Gomez said. "Even though I have social anxiety, I like being the focus. Winning this award can hopefully show future generations of students that if you try your best, you could do anything."
For more information on when the play will run in January, visit facebook.com/MillerHsBucs.
John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Consider supporting local journalism with a subscription to the Caller-Times.
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: CCISD's Miller Metro Prep makes history at UIL tournament