Pinelands Regional Dynasty Continues at State Theater Competition

Jan 31, 2018

The names may have changed, but the song remains the same.

For over a dozen years, Pinelands Regional School District students have dominated the Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey’s annual Governor’s Award Competition for high school thespians, racking up almost 200 trophies in the competition, including almost 60 prestigious Governor’s Awards. But their former teacher, Chuck Miller, had moved to another school this time around, replaced by Michelle Sayah. Would there be a dramatic drop-off in their performances at this year’s competition?

In a word – no!

Earlier this month Sayah and Co. traveled to Montclair State University to compete, which is another change considering the competition used to be held at Rutgers. A different venue, a different drama teacher, but nothing made a difference. Pinelands once again took home more hardware than any other competing school.

“The competition grew greatly this year,” said Sayah, “but our kids still won by a landslide.”

Senior Dan O’Brien won a Governor’s Award by finishing first in the Comedic Monologue category. His toughest competition came from a classmate, Liann Yu, who finished second. A sophomore, Sarah Keady, was fourth.

Liam McGettigan, a senior, teamed with junior Anthony Scarpone to claim a Governor’s Award in the Comedic Pair competition. They were pushed to the max by the sophomore duo of Amanda Delbury and Gaten Matarazzo, who finished second. Paige Miller, a senior, and junior John Thornton took fifth-place honors.

Cara Waldron, who will graduate this spring, finished third in the Dramatic Monologue event.

Dramatic Pairs produced a wheelbarrow’s worth of trophies, led by seniors Kamryn Barr and Jared Fagan, who finished second. Third place was taken by Scarpone and Yu while McGettigan and Waldron finished in sixth.

Waldron and senior Madison Kay finished second in the Improv Pairs battle. Matarazzo and Miller finished third while fifth place was occupied by the sophomore combination of Delbury and Keady.

Barr, Fagan and Miller were joined by senior Rose Farrell to win a third-place award in the Group Scene category.

A mere freshman, Nadia Vito, won the Character Analysis competition. Alas, that category doesn’t earn the winner a Governor’s Award.

This year’s trophies were especially dear considering the confused situation at Pinelands Regional this past autumn.

“Despite all of the obstacles this school year, our students’ passion for the arts and the support from our community and administration helped us to persevere in the face of great adversity,” said Sayah. “We are very grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from our district, our friends at the Stafford Township Arts Center, who provided us with a performance space this winter when we were in need of one, and our friends at the Parkertown Firehouse, for allowing us the chance to rehearse when we were without a rehearsal space. We cannot thank these organizations, the community, and our administration and staff enough.”

By the way, the competition could get stronger in the future, so Pinelands thespians will have to stay on their toes. A pair of Miller’s new kids at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan took home the Governor’s Award in Dramatic Pairs. There are all sorts of sports rivalries. So why not a theater rivalry? 

— Rick Mellerup

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