Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Buckley Award Winners Reflect on Recent Honor

by Abby Cloud, Mansfield ISD PR Specialist

As we announced in the MISD Newsroom last week, Mansfield High School musical theatre students bagged two of the prestigious Betty Buckley Awards for their production of “Side Show.”

Best Female Actor: Kylie Arnold for her role as Violet
Excellence in Lighting Design: Blake Manns and William Willoughby


I had the chance to sit down with the three winners to discuss their recent success, as well as the challenges they faced along the way.

L to R: Thomas, Manns, Arnold, Willoughby, Vaitekunas
Abby: So I understand the Buckley Awards are sort of like the Tony Awards of high school musical theatre, describe to me what the night of the awards ceremony was like.

Kylie: Basically, there are hundreds of the most talented students in North Texas gathered in one place. It’s the biggest award a high school musical can win, and it’s kind of like a big celebration of what you’ve done that year.

Abby: In addition to the stunning trophies, what else does a Buckley Award winner receive?

Kylie: All of the winners receive a $500 scholarship to the college of their choice, but the Best Actor and Actress winners also get an all-expense paid five-day trip to New York City. We will be doing workshops, performances, competitions and learning from people that are actually in the business. It’s a huge opportunity and I’m super excited to go this summer!

Abby: So what does it feel like to be a winner of such a prestigious award?

William: I was super surprised! I knew we did well, but I had no idea we did THAT well. My heart dropped when they called our names.

Kylie: This was my third time being nominated, and since it’s my senior year, I knew this was it for me. I’ve been worried sick since the nominations came out because I’ve wanted this so much. It is incredible… It hasn’t even sunk in yet.

Abby: Tell me a little bit about “Side Show.”

William: It’s mainly about Violet and Daisy who are Siamese twins that grew up in a freak show. Two business men discover their amazing singing voices and showcase them on a world tour.

Kylie: It’s actually based on a true story. These twins existed and performed in a couple of films during their time. It’s awesome to see them on screen and know I was able to share their story.

Abby: What was it like to play a Siamese twin?

Kylie: I definitely spent A LOT of time with Chloe, who played my twin Daisy. The weird thing is that we weren’t physically connected with our costumes or anything, so it took major practice to stay together at all times. Also, I’m a huge klutz, so Chloe knew if I tripped or something she would have to fake the fall to match what I was doing!

Abby: On a personal level, what lessons did you learn from Violet’s character?


Kylie: It makes you appreciate being able to make your own choices and form your own identity. I have a little brother who I love to death, but I just can’t imagine being connected to him every day. It taught me the value of the freedom to be who you want to be, love who you want to love and go where you want to go.

Abby: Any acting tips you’d like to share?

Kylie: Mrs. Thomas always taught us to ‘just be.’ You can get caught up in your head thinking about how a character should be, but at some point in the performance process you have to just let the character be and just go with it; otherwise everything looks fake and calculated. If you can master that, then you’ve got it down.

Abby: How about the secrets to lighting a stage?

William: You have to know a lot about colors and the moods associated with them.

Blake: The lighting sets the atmosphere for each scene. If you light a happy scene with dark colors, it won’t be portrayed correctly. 

Abby: What do you think makes you so great at what you do?

William: I’m good with putting stuff together and figuring out the numbers and Blake is good with putting together a color concept.

Blake: Through my work designing lighting and video for my church, I discovered that God has blessed me with a gift to design.

Abby: What about the future? What are your plans?

Blake: I would like to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Design. I definitely want to keep doing lighting and design.

William: I will probably go to UTA to get a degree in Electrical Engineering, after that I’m thinking about getting my Masters in Law and working my way up to being President. I’ve got so many concepts and ideas to help America, and I really want to try to make a difference.

Kylie: I’m starting at TCU in the fall, to begin working on my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with a Musical Theatre emphasis. I hope to be able to continue doing what I love.

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Another round of applause for these amazingly talented students! Kylie, Blake and William also provided a list of  people to thank who they feel were instrumental in their success: 
  • Mrs. Thomas and Ms. V, who spent countless hours working so hard and encouraging us.
  • Mr. Wright, who did all of our music while juggling All-State Choir, Show Choir, Jazz Choir and coordinated the entire Christmas program.
  • Mr. Ludlow, who directed our orchestra and took the time to rewrite a lot of the parts for us.
  • Miss Dawn, our pianist who was at every rehearsal and even stayed after to help us with tough sections.
  • Dr. Andrews, our Choir Director who helped us with the difficult music.


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