Ardmore High School’s The Act drama/speech team competed in Hattiesburg, Miss. Nov. 5 for the Hub City Invitational against teams from across the nation.
The out-of-state regular season tournament is a first for The Act. Coach Brian Gunter explained that it was a decision made to help propel the team to higher levels of competition, allowing students to see what it takes to compete with the biggest and the best from all over the nation.
“It’s rare that you see a student win a national championship, or even advance to the finals, if they haven’t traveled the national competitive circuit at least once or twice in a school year,” Gunter added. “I wanted students to see and learn and apply the things they see so that they in turn could apply it themselves.”
While in Hattiesburg, some of the students took the opportunity to work with Demond Wilson, owner and president of The Perfect Performance.
“Working with Demond has been unlike anything I’ve experienced. He helped me improve my acting as a whole, not just my piece,” Antonio Rodriguez, first-year member and senior, added.
“Students across the country can point to The Perfect Performance as an opportunity like no other,” Gunter explained. “If you look at the final rounds in all acting events at the national tournament you will find that almost half of them have worked with Demond Wilson and his company. It’s a privilege to be afforded that opportunity, an opportunity I plan on providing these kids three more times this year should the funding surface.”
The Act traveled with 13 members due to illness sidelining two of the original 15.  To attend this tournament, students had to audition with competitive material and achieve a preset standard to be chosen.
“I never planned on taking more than 15. If I hadn’t found 15 ready to go I would have taken just the number who had met that standard,” Gunter explained. “If we could have afforded to take 30 or more kids we would have, but I had to narrow it down to a manageable number.  Perhaps in the future we can expand the number of participants.”
The team advanced 13 events to the semi finals (top 12) and 6 events to the final round, quite an accomplishment according to their coach. Students who advanced to the semi finals and receiving semi finalist loving cups were Lexie Brown, Jessica Cajina, Nathaniel McElhiney, Arrah Roach, Antonio Rodriguez, Kelly Sanabria, Abigail Stewart, Shyann Ayers and Caterra Williams.
Of those students, advancing to finals and earning the big awards at the tournament were Antonio Rodriguez, 2nd place in Humorous Interpretation, Nathaniel McElhiney, 6th place in Humorous Interpretation, Jessica Cajina, 3rd place in Prose Interpretation and 3rd place in Duet Acting and Abigail Stewart, 3rd place in Duet Acting and 4th place in Dramatic Interpretation.
“I am extremely proud of all these students. They worked tirelessly preparing for this tournament. I was pleased and a bit surprised by how well we did. You never know what the stress of a tournament like this will do to a performer, especially when you have never seen this level of competition,” Gunter added.