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Redmond Proficiency Academy theatre students take home 14 acting honors

Virtual competition lacks audience: 'You don't get a response from anybody'

(Update: adding video, students, theatre director comments)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Redmond Proficiency Academy theatre students Grace Sorensen and Kendra McGuire are used to performing to an audience, but the pandemic has forced them and their fellow performers to show off their skills virtually.

The two are among eight competitors from the RPA Thespian Troupe who recently competed in the annual Oregon Thespians South Regional Acting Competition, winning 14 ribbons for excellence in numerous acting categories. 

Sorensen says she's been doing this for six years, but she never imagined having to compete like this.

"It's been very difficult and unique," Sorensen said Wednesday. "This is a very new experience for me."

McGuire says although it's been a new learning experience, it certainly hasn't been easy.

"I think for our group it's particularly hard, because we can never see each other," McGuire said. "We're a very close-knit group."

RPA Theatre Director Kate Torcom says the pandemic has been challenging, but it has opened a few doors for students.

"It's been incredibly difficult and problematic, but it has also led to some really cool collaborative opportunities to overcome," Torcom said.

Working online has removed in-person collaboration, but the students have been able to talk to more guest speakers, colleges and industry outlets.

We had to ask whether it was easier to perform on camera than in front of a live audience, and the answer was clear.

"Absolutely not," Sorensen said. "It's really difficult, because there's so much more judging yourself, because you have to watch yourself. You have to watch your videos, and you don't get a response from anybody."

And McGuire says she's in the same boat.

"I definitely wouldn't say it was easier than being in front of people," McGuire said.

Despite the limitations, the two say they will gladly take their state-qualifying ribbons, and are ready to take on anything this new normal throws at them.

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Here's RPA's news release on the successful competition:

Redmond Proficiency Academy theatre students win honors in regional acting competition

REDMOND, Ore. –– Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA) Thespian Troupe #7715 recently competed in the annual Oregon Thespians South Regional Acting Competition, winning 14 ribbons for excellence in numerous acting categories. 

“In a year where it’s hard enough to complete any daily task, let alone compete via an entirely new format and yet they still took home fourteen ribbons,” Theatre Director Kate Torcom said. “It’s a testament to the tenacity and true heart of this theatre department. These students truly put themselves out there and I am pleased to see their dedication recognized.” 

An all digital event this year, students were given from Feb. 6-12 to submit their acting competition videos and judges had from Feb. 13-22 to rank them and submit scores. Results were announced on Tuesday on the Oregon Thespians Instagram account.  

"As a school that predominantly focuses on ensemble-based performance work, RPA Theatre was faced with some real challenges with the elimination of the group musical and acting categories,” Torcom said. “However, our students were able to overcome this change, hone in on solo skills, and find new ways to collaborate via digital means."

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no group acting or musical entries were permitted this year in an effort to maintain student safety. Despite a massive drop in participation across the state, RPA put forth one of the biggest submissions in the region and state.

All eight of RPA’s theatre competitors ribboned this year, winning in the following categories:

  • Grace Sorensen (Senior) - State Qualifier: Solo Music, Solo Acting Experienced, Duo Dramatic Experienced
  • Kendra McGuire (Junior) - State Qualifier: Solo Acting Experienced & Regionals Finalist: Solo Musical, Duo Dramatic Experienced
  • Aubrey Luse (Junior) - State Qualifier: Solo Acting Experienced
  • Craig Chisholm (Junior) - Regionals Finalist: Duo Musical
  • Lydia Carter (Sophomore) - Regionals Finalist: Solo Musical, Duo Dramatic Experienced
  • Anne McCook (Sophomore) - Regionals Finalist: Duo Musical
  • Abigail Busch (Sophomore) - Regionals Finalist: Solo Musical
  • Allie Smith (Freshman) - State Qualifier: Solo Acting Novice, Duo Dramatic Experienced 

“Being a senior amidst a pandemic, still pursuing my dreams of acting and singing at higher levels, I was really nervous and excited to compete virtually this year,” Grace Sorensen said. “It’s been really fun and complicated learning to do theatre online, but I’m proud of myself for qualifying in all three of my categories, it’s like a final hoorah!” 

Competition rules stated that participants were to record videos in their own spaces and videos had to be recorded in one take with no editing.  

“Winning as a freshman is a big accomplishment and I’m really proud of myself,” said Allie Smith. “I couldn’t have done it without my peers who have been so supportive during these times.”

Thespian Troupe #7715 advances to compete digitally at the State Acting Competition in April and at the International Thespian Festival in June.  

About Redmond Proficiency Academy
Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA) is a tuition-free public charter school located in Redmond, Oregon. Now in its twelfth year, RPA serves over 900 students from grades 6th-12th throughout Central Oregon. With an innovative and personalized proficiency-based collegiate model, RPA provides dynamic pathways to success for all students.

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

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