Meridian High actors take the stage at state competition

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Meridian High students perform in "Death by Design: The Secret Holocaust of Wrightsville, Arkansas," in early December. The actors head to Oxford for a state competion in January.

After years of hard work and dedication, Randy Ferino Wayne Jr. is taking a group of young actors to a state competition next month. 

“I was overwhelmed that I could lead them to success,” said Wayne, the theater teacher at Meridian High School. 

Students acting in a production called "Death by Design" are going to The Mississippi Theater Association Theater Festival Jan. 16-19, 2020 in Oxford.

"Death by Design" is about the Wrightsville 21 and tells the story of a fire that broke out at the Negro Industrial School for Boys in 1959. With the doors locked from the front and the back, 69 black boys tried to escape the fire.

Only 48 survived, while the remaining 21 died of smoke inhalation or were burned beyond recognition. When it came time for the victims' parents to pick up the bodies, it was difficult because their remains were scattered.

The cause of the fire remains a mystery and many Americans don’t know their story.

Wayne said the production made some audience members cry because of the subject matter. 

“We stirred up a lot of emotions with the play,” Wayne said.

If they win the state competition, the group might have to chance to go to nationals.

“If I was able to take my production and my students to a national competition, it would be a milestone for me," Wayne said. 

The group also recently competed at Dramafest in Starkville, winning for best technical achievement, best overall theatrical experience and two all-star cast awards. 

Wayne said the students were shocked when they won, because Meridian High does not offer a full time theater class. The actors volunteer to participate in the class, practicing after school.

"This is all after school," Wayne said. "The students take time from their busy schedules and their passions, to actually stay after school and work to accomplish what they do." 

How to help

The group is seeking funds to help pay for living expenses, transportation, registration, and food at the Oxford competition. For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/vsnaubh.  

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