‘Tales’ holds auditions for 30th annual performance


Gina Nguyen

Auriel Quiroz was a performer for the 2019 Tales from the Crypt.

Muneebah Umar, Lead Copy Editor

A total of 58 juniors in Chuck Yarborough’s Tales from the Crypt U.S. history class braved the stage in Shackleford Auditorium on Jan. 26 and 27, to audition for the 30th annual Tales from the Crypt. After much deliberation, the panel of judges chose a total of 10 individual performers and six Decoration Day Ladies.

The two-night auditions were the culmination of a semester’s worth of trips to the Lowndes County Public Library. Using both primary and secondary sources, students wrote a college-level research paper regarding a person buried in Friendship Cemetery. Students kept their papers–and performances–relevant to the current day and age while accurately conveying the life of their subject. 

After submitting their papers at the end of the first semester, students composed scripts relating to their research paper in some way. Every student must perform their script to the entire class, a predicament some found more challenging than others. 

Junior Kaia Williams, a selected Decoration Day Lady, found the script portion the most challenging aspect of the process thus far.

“The script was the hardest part because you have to write a story that is relevant to today that has meaning to it,” Williams said.

Junior Gracie Rowland, an individual performer, shared similar sentiments about composing a script. Rowland focused on how much emotion she and her script conveyed during auditions.

“Writing the script was way harder than perfecting the actual performance of it because my piece was very emotional, and I wanted it to have ups and downs, so just editing that and just trying to create a piece that could actually connect with an audience was interesting,” Rowland said. “From that, it was just doing little tidbits, so I worked on blocking, I worked on intonation, and I worked on developing the character through mannerisms and through body language.”

When the second audition night came, it was clear that students felt more comfortable auditioning, which explains the waves of volunteers throughout the night. Each audition had a different angle or element to make it stand out. Some students incorporated the audience while others adopted different accents. Every student poured their research subject’s thoughts to the audience telling stories of death, loss and despair.

While some people auditioned as their subject, others chose to present the life of their subjects as family members or close friends. Williams played the daughter of her subject, and Rowland portrayed her subject with a feminist angle.

“My piece is a heavily feminist piece, so she is bitter towards the society in which she lives, so it is her reckoning against both her husband and the patriarchy in which she existed,” Rowland said.

The selection process was in the hands of Yarborough, English teacher Thomas Richardson and 11 seniors who all participated in Tales last year. A portion of the judging process included current Tales students voting for their top picks. 

Senior Linda Arnoldus was a performer last year and judged this year’s auditions. For her, judging Tales was a fantastic opportunity to see what her juniors have achieved in one semester.

“I think judging Tales this year was one of the most enjoyable things I have done so far,” she said. “Seeing all the juniors in Tales put their best foot forward and put on a show was, first of all, really entertaining, and second of all, really inspiring to see people that I don’t usually see in that setting go above and beyond. I think all the auditions were really amazing.”

Multiple components make a successful audition. Many of the judges felt that all the juniors’ auditions had those components to a certain extent. 

Successful auditions show evidence of historical understanding and interpretation coupled with a presentation that connects the performer with their audience in a way that conveys meaning to both.  Every audition this year succeeded in doing that at some point,” Yarborough said. 

Tales From the Crypt is an integral part of MSMS. Current and past participants of the program continuously cite its impact and importance to not only MSMS but the Columbus community.” 

“Tales is a really unique program that MSMS has,” Arnoldus said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before, and not only does it give you tons of community service hours, but it is something really unique to add to your resume, whether you’re a performer, narrator or musical interlude. I think a lot of colleges have never heard of it before, so it’s something really unique to have under your belt.”

Rowland, a Columbus native, shared similar sentiments about the program and her role in it. 

“[Tales] means that I get to connect with the town that I love in a meaningful way, and I get to talk about an issue I’m passionate about–feminism–to as many people as I can,” Rowland said.

The class will now focus on getting ready for opening night.

“Now, in weekly practices, teams will work to hone the selected performances into the final Tales from the Crypt production for late March and early April, presentation, collaboration, leadership, and community,” Yarborough said. 

Already, expectations are high for this year’s performance. After seeing the performers’ auditions, Arnoldus knows that everyone is in for a treat. 

“This performance night is going to be amazing. we have so many talented performers. You should expect a long walk through a graveyard with ghosts coming up to you and telling you their story,” Arnoldus said.  

Performances will take place in Friendship Cemetery on March 27 and 30 and April 1 and 3.