The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

‘Nerds playing air guitar’

Red Bird Productions UIL One Act Play cast bonds over shared passion for air guitar, theater
Matthew Guzman
Cannibal Queen (senior Kristen Lea), Golden Thunder (junior Soleiman Barrera-Kelly), Facebender (senior Brian Smith), and Shreddy Eddie (senior Jermaine Hayden) gather around The Nina (junior Camila Patino) as she opens her invitation to the Dark Horse competition. The invitation signifies Nina’s beginning to understand the true meaning of airness, a level of carefree performance that air guitarists strive to achieve.

“It’s nerds playing air guitar. 

And it’s awesome.”

That’s how head theater director Kayla Boffone described this year’s Red Bird Productions UIL One Act Play, “Airness,” to other teachers. It’s been her favorite UIL show in her 11 years of teaching, and on Saturday, May 11, the cast performed their final show.

“Airness” is a comedy that follows the main character, Nina, as she enters the air guitar world to get back at her ex-boyfriend D Vicious. She comes away from the experience with a new friend group of air guitarists and an understanding of the value of “finding the airness inside yourself” through air guitar. 

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For their auditions, actors had to do an air guitar performance in front of the seventh period varsity theater classes. Their unfamiliarity with air guitar and the vulnerability it required made it challenging for them to pick up.

“It was a little bit of a tough sell at times,” Boffone said. “I think people were like, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever get comfortable doing it.’ I just thought it was so unhinged and that [they] would enjoy it.”

Boffone’s encouragement throughout the audition and rehearsal process helped the UIL cast work through their hesitancy, and by mid-February, they were spending long hours rehearsing and doing character work for the March 9 district competition.

The Nina, played by junior Camila Patino, does an air guitar performance to the song “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” at the air guitar national finals competition. Throughout the rehearsal process, the actors in “Airness” practiced air guitar every day to perfect the art. (Matthew Guzman)

Junior Camila Patino, who played the role of Nina, was proud of herself when she was cast as the lead. After getting familiar with the script and her character, she spent “basically all [her] time” balancing her cheerleading and junior-year workload with the demands of UIL. However, she loved being trusted with her role. 

“I knew that if I was chosen to be that role, I was going to have to sacrifice things for it and just stay in it,” Patino said. “‘Airness’ is also just an outlet for all the pressure. To make the play as unhinged as it needed to be, we had a soap opera run in the tech room. I think that was a turning point [for me]. It was just taking everything to the most unhinged that you could. It was crazy. I loved it.”

Senior Kristen Lea played Cannibal Queen, a cold feminist who’s dating D Vicious and later befriends Nina. She wrote dozens of pages in a diary from the perspective of Cannibal Queen. After a judge complimented her character work at the bi-district competition, Lea inspired members of the cast to delve deeper into their character analysis too. Patino imagined herself “releasing” Camila and allowing Nina’s character to come into her mind. Sophomore Aiden Gross, who played D Vicious, recorded himself talking in a stream of consciousness as D Vicious, answering questions about his character and his motives. All of the actors’ dedication allowed them to fully submerge themselves into the world of “Airness.”

Cannibal Queen (senior Kristen Lea) plays an air guitar to “Arpeggios From Hell,” a technically challenging song that Lea studied to get the hand movements right. At the end of the song, Cannibal Queen mimes pulling the heart out of an audience member, taking a bite out of it and stomping it into the ground. (Matthew Guzman)

“To get into character, I feel like it’s just a switch,” Gross said. “You breathe. You get on stage. You just transform. I don’t know how to describe it. I’m Aiden, but when I’m on stage, I’m a different aspect of me.”

As the actors and technicians committed to “Airness’” “unhinged” nature, the cast bonded over the unique experience the show brought them. Lea said that “Airness” has been her favorite show from her four years in RBP. She loved her character, she loved how fun the show was and, most importantly, she loved how this was the best group of people she had ever worked with on a show.

“There was just something special about this year’s cast,” Lea said. “It was just magic. I don’t know how to pinpoint it, but there was just something special about this particular group of people. There was no one who brought us down, and everybody was just on the same level. [We] just worked really, really well together. Everybody loved each other and still loves each other.”

Sophomore Aiden Gross slides across the stage as D Vicious in the opening of “Airness.” He got “Airness” written across his chest as a henna tattoo to commit to his character. (Matthew Guzman)

On March 29, the UIL cast sat in the Bellaire auditorium as the contest manager announced the awards at the end of the bi-district competition. Finally, after about 20 minutes, he got to what they were waiting for: who would advance to area. Only three schools would continue their UIL journey.

Bellaire’s cast reached across armrests and backs of seats to hold each other’s hands. Some had their heads bowed while others intently watched the stage.

“The first school to advance is: Carnegie Vanguard High School.”

Cheers and polite applause.

“The second school to advance: CyFair High School.”

They squeezed each other’s hands even tighter.

“And the third and final school to advance to the area competition: Bellaire High School.”

They erupted in cheers. It was the first time Bellaire had advanced to the area competition in 10 years.

“It was a really beautiful moment,” Lea said. “People were crying and hugging, and it was just really awesome. I was super thrilled, like, ‘Wow I’m so proud that we’ve advanced further than Bellaire has gone in so long.’ But the biggest thing was, ‘Yes, I get to spend three more weeks with these people.’”

Even though the cast did not advance past the area competition, they were just happy to get to spend more time together as they worked toward their final show.

“They all enjoyed each other,” Boffone said. “After it was over, many of them were like, ‘Hey, can we still rehearse? Do we still get to work on the show?’ I think that’s like the dream place to be.”

Lea said that “Airness” was what pulled the cast together with its motif of unity and acceptance.

“Something that I think was really special about “Airness” is that a lot of the themes [about creating] a really accepting and loving environment where you can just be the craziest version of yourself are really representative of what theater is,” Lea said. “That’s why this show really brings people together.”

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