Every day young people work hard to make a mark on the world. The young people in this area also strive for greatness. The students in Southside Virginia are driven but often deprived of creative opportunities. Students always need more chances to explore their creative outlets and showcase their talents. Performing at the high school level is one way to do this! On Thursday, October 18th, Pittsylvania County’s four high schools came together to give students just that opportunity. In the Education and Cultural Center in Chatham, VA, students from the four high schools took the stage for Pittsylvania County’s first All County One-Act Theatre Festival. Each year, schools from Pittsylvania County, and around the region, participate in the Virginia High School League (VHSL) One-Act Theatre Contest. This year, the four schools were able to showcase their hard work before contest in an exhibition for the community. During the evening, Chatham High School performed Such a Nice Little Kitty, Dan River High School performed The Plot to Assassinate the Chase Manhattan Bank, Gretna High School performed Death, Dante, and the Devil, and Tunstall High School performed This Side of Heaven.

The VHSL works to bring theatre, journalism, forensics, broadcasting, and creative writing (to name a few) to the extensive list of sporting opportunities at the high school level. Theatre, just as other sports, has a coach. This coach is a member of the faculty or staff who is interested and eligible. Many schools do not have a theatre program in their daily curriculum. For these schools, the coach is someone who is interested in providing an opportunity for talented young people to perform. English teachers, special education teachers, and math teachers have all been known to take on the role of theatre director for the sake of live performing art in our area.

Coaches for each theatre “team” commit countless hours of work to the students on the stage, in the booth, and backstage. The compensation is meek, the hours are long, and the recognition is minimal. Often, directors and coaches can be found working as school officials, parents, and cheerleaders. They work hard as “on the spot” psychologists, nurses, porters, and pack mules. In times of need, they may don the title of construction workers, carpenters, and computer engineers. Coaches are responsible for set design, costume construction, scripts, royalties, and travel arrangements. The budgets for after school programs like this are small to say the least, but the show must go on! The idea that the students’ work should be the main focus is one of honor. Yet, even the best athletic team can only do so much with little to no equipment.

The coach on the sidelines of a court or field has the opportunity to guide, aid, and encourage their players. The difference in watching and coaching from the sidelines, and “coaching” in the theatre, is the total inability to interfere in ANY way once the show has begun. Each coach must trust and hold their breath as each cue is run. A theatre coach must trust that they have done everything possible to prepare the cast. Every line that is missed, every mark that is changed, every tech element that doesn’t quite line up throws the coach into a hyperventilating panic. Even through the heart palpitations, one-act coaches are theatre people, and theatre people are adaptable in a way that is unknown to most.

As the coaches in the area prepare their casts for contest, keep them in mind. Remember that time when you worked on a skit in a class. Think about your school experience. Remember that teacher who changed your mind about an idea or the one who introduced you to a new view. These kids are the future performers, professional dancers, and theatre advocates. They are also future mechanics. They could be the next judge in town. They could be a local entrepreneur. Support the students who work to produce something and the teachers and coaches who work tirelessly to provide a safe space. Teachers give more of themselves than is ever asked of them. The teachers in this area are no different!


Tunstall High School performed their show at Regional Contest at Christiansburg High School on Saturday, October 27th.  They took home a first-place ranking that advanced them to the State Contest in Charlottesville, VA scheduled for December 3rd.  Gretna, Dan River, and Chatham High Schools took the stage against one another on Saturday, November 3rd at Nelson County High School for the 2C Sub-Region Contest.  Nelson County High School and Rockingham County High School took the first and second positions advancing them on to the Super Region Contest. Chatham tied for second but brought home the third place ranking after a tiebreaker was implemented.  Dan River took home the fifth-place position while Gretna came in sixth in the contest.

About The Author

Kris Dodds Williams

Education Director for Smokestack Theatre Company and Theatre Director for Tunstall High School