Inside Mason’s states-winning VHSL Theater performance


The George Mason VHSL theater team poses onstage after winning first place at states on December 3. Left to right: junior CC Meade, senior Ciara Curtin, Mr. Shawn Northrip, senior Johnny Goodwin, junior Kevin Hong, and sophomore Amalia Alexander. (Photo courtesy of Ciara Curtin)

Sequoia Wyckoff, Editor-in-Chief

The George Mason VHSL theater team took first place at States at Monticello High School on December 3. Junior CC Meade and senior Ciara Curtin won Best Actor awards.

But the team’s process started long before December 3 – it took months of hard work and dedication to develop their performance of Rush Lit, a complicated, physically and emotionally demanding play.

Rush Lit was written by Mason theater teacher Mr. Shawn Northrip and follows the story of two street performers Tanya (Meade) and Natasha (Curtin) and security guard Gus (senior Johnny Goodwin). The performance featured a cameo from junior Kevin Hong and lighting by sophomore Amalia Alexander. 

Most of their set consisted of two bags full of props. Because of this, “[Rush Lit] is so complex. Each rehearsal we’d figure out how we’re going to use each prop,” said senior Ciara Curtin, who played Natasha. The team spent hours in rehearsing during Mustang Block, starting in October, rehearsing prop movements and timing sequences that they had to get perfect.

In one particular scene, Curtin and Meade created a representation of an eclipse using a blank canvas, a flashlight, and a paper moon. “That scene is in slow motion. [Meade and Curtin] aren’t even looking at each other so they have to get the timing down,” Goodwin said.

Other scenes were even more physically demanding and difficult to time. For example, “There’s a sword fight where I’m pretending to fight with a sword and CC stands with a cymbal and a toothbrush making each sound. We had to learn the different counts of the sword fighting,” Curtin said.

Three students in a selfie
This selfie was taken during Rush Lit, as part of the performance. The show featured many prop components such as this one. Left to right: senior Ciara Curtin, junior Kevin Hong, and junior CC Meade. (Photo courtesy of Ciara Curtin)

The team practiced a hair pull. Goodwin practiced picking Curtin up in one scene. Curtin memorized a song on the accordion. They even practiced taking a selfie onstage (pictured left). “Even if we were just working one page of the script, we would end up running out of time, and Johnny and CC would have to get passes to their third block classes,” Curtin said.

But slowly, the team perfected each movement. “By the end, we finished rehearsals with extra time. We knew what we were doing,” Curtin said.

Part of their success is tied to the fluidity with which the actors worked and performed together.  Such a small, intimate cast is not typical for VHSL performances. With only three actors speaking, each cast member and the chemistry among them was essential to the show’s success. 

Curtin and Meade, who were on the stage for almost the whole show, played two close friends street performers Tanya and Natasha. For that reason, it was integral to the show that the two were in sync. Initially, their chemistry was already strong  – “Ciara and I just have such complementary energies,” Meade said – but developing it further took the hard work of many rehearsals.

Eventually, “their chemistry was so strong, it’s like they didn’t need to work at it. As if they really were Tanya and Natasha,” Goodwin said.

Curtin recalled a piece of feedback from Mr. Northrip: “There’s this moment in the play when we’re both looking up at the sun. Apparently our faces were moving at the same time.” 

She likened their dynamic to a theater exercise, in which one actor pretends to pull a rope attached another actor’s back, and the two actors try to time the release of the rope with the second actor’s fall without being able to see one another. “Metaphorically, that rope trick was working every single time. That’s really special,” Curtin said.

six people pose with awards
The theater team smiles after their win. “Winning felt amazing. We had worked so hard and become so close,” Meade said. Front, left to right: senior Ciara Curtin and junior CC Meade. Back, left to right: junior Kevin Hong, senior Johnny Goodwin, Mr. Shawn Northrip, and sophomore Amalia Alexander.

Goodwin, who plays Gus, is somewhat new to Mason theater – although he has experience with theater class, Rush Lit and A Chorus Line were his first two Mason productions. He explained the rehearsal process of a large role like Gus:

“The first couple weeks we sat down and read the play to get the sense of the play – what is our character doing? Why is he saying that?” Then, he took Mr. Northrip’s notes on pacing, and examined and analyzed the script down to each word.“I had to really read the words and find the emotion,” he said. 

The hard work paid off. “My final monologue, it really draws people in. People are laughing,” Goodwin said. 

“At the first read-through he was just reciting it. And then there were a couple rehearsals where Ciara and I didn’t come, and when we came back we were stunned. It’s wordy, but you never get lost. He pulls the audience in so well and there’s never a moment where I’m not entertained,” Meade said.

Part of this success was also tied to Goodwin’s chemistry with Curtin and Meade. “Ciara once told me that there was a line I have, and the way I delivered my line actually gave emotion to her character.”

A show like Rush Lit depends on trust, Goodwin said. “You start to have a relationship with  [castmates] beyond the production. And so there was a lot of trust.” And evidently, that perfect combination of trust and hard work evidently created a moving, successful performance, winning the VHSL state competition. 

“To hear our names be called felt pretty darn cool. I don’t even know how else to say it,” Curtin said. “And I felt happy for [Mr. Northrip], because it’s his work. To win VHSL for the first time ever, with his work, I think that’s really awesome.”