Date: December 7, 2021
By Lisa Garrett
TCTC Dual Enrollment Student Mary Bate Wins Top Honor in BJU 24-Hour Playwriting Competition
PENDLETON -- Mary Bate entered Tri-County Technical College this fall as a 16-year-old dual enrollment student looking for an academic challenge.
In August she enrolled in two classes – art history and appreciation and English 101 -- while maintaining straight-A’s as a junior at S.C. Connections Academy, a tuition-free virtual public charter school that K–12 students can attend from home. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college classes while they are still enrolled in high school. These classes count for both high school and college credit.
It was the first time Bate had experienced an in-person lecture in five years. Since completing the sixth grade, she has been a student at the S.C. Connections Academy. She said her dual enrollment classes immediately challenged her and reignited her love of writing and the arts. She credits instructors Jesse Morgan (art) and Betty Stack (English) with motivating her creatively. “They had higher expectations of me than I had of myself,” she said.
An avid theatre lover, Bate had acted in several youth, community and college productions, but had never tried her hand at playwriting. Earlier this year she participated in Bob Jones University’s Musical Theatre EduCamp for high schoolers and says her classes at TCTC gave her the courage to sign up for a 24-hour playwriting contest held during the week.
She competed against 19 other high school students and took home the top honor in playwriting, along with a first-place acting ensemble award.
“I went in expecting a fun week of acting and experience. I was there to make new friends, learn about theatre, and to explore my own talent,” she said. She walked away with two awards “and a big smile on my face,” she added.
Once she decided to enter the playwriting competition, judges gave each competitor mandatory phrases and props to incorporate into their scripts. “Each of us had to take the required phrases and props and people and had 24 hours to create a play that was 8 to 10 minutes in length.”
She headed straight to the university’s library where she began to power write for four hours. She took a break and left the library to audition for a part in the soon-to-be-written plays.
“I had nothing prepared. I rummaged in my back pack and found a Pez stick. So, my audition consisted of talking about how much people hate Pez. It was completely improvised,” she said.
She left feeling both energized and nervous and headed home to start writing again until the wee hours.
She turned her play in and the next day learned she qualified for one of the playwriting awards, as well as an audition for the plays that would be performed. She spent almost the entire next day memorizing and rehearsing the script that she and three others were given to perform. Later that evening, she got a text that she was chosen for one of the acting roles.
“The script I performed won the second-place award as I learned during the awards ceremony that evening. I performed the script after the awards ceremony.” After the performance, she and the group she acted with won the first-place acting ensemble award for their performance in a fellow participant’s play.
During the awards ceremony, she was on stage with two other finalists. “When I heard my name called as the winner of the playwriting award, I was super excited and shocked. My play, “The Psychiatrist Knows More than You Think,” somehow it won.”
She received a trophy and a free week of EduCamp at Bob Jones University.
“I went there expecting to get an education, not an award. It’s a week I will never forget,” said the Anderson resident.
Her first semester at TCTC is equally memorable. “I was nervous and self-conscious the first day or so. My high school teachers have told me dual enrollment is where I need to be. I expected to receive at most high B’s but I’ve received A’s in both classes. TCTC is a great place to do dual enrollment. It aligns perfectly with high school students who want to be challenged academically.”
TCTC English lecturer Betty Stack says Bate reached out to her immediately after winning the award. “Mary is an amazing student who will do extraordinary things one day. Theatre and writing are definitely in her future. She is one of the best students I have ever taught,” said Stack, a veteran educator and community college administrator. “She is inquisitive and she is extremely smart. Recently she told me her critical thinking skills have advanced since taking my class. That is my goal as an educator. When she said that, I was beaming inside and out.”
Art instructor Jesse Morgan is equally impressed with Bate’s accomplishments. "Mary is an extremely dedicated and talented student. She is a natural leader whether working in a group or one on one. Mary has proven to be gifted in many areas. Her future is very bright, and I look forward to hearing of the many successes that will be coming her way,” said Morgan.
“I’ve come out of this semester with more respect for myself and knowledge of where I stand academically because of my instructors’ impact on my education. I’m a better student and a better person,” said Bate.
“My awards are a reminder to never give up, to get the most out of my experiences and to do my very best,” she added.
She ends the semester at TCTC with a deeper appreciation of art history and a wealth of writing experience, thanks to instructors Morgan and Stack. “I got lucky. They both care so much about their students and our successes.”
Next semester, Bate will take a break from dual enrollment classes because she has been cast as “Bellboy” in Southern Wesleyan University’s production of “Titanic.”
She plans to major in media communications, and she is eyeing SWU and BJU after graduating. “Both universities exceed my standards,” she said. Her dream is to be a drama teacher or work in theatre.
About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.