TOWNSHEND >> When Owen McDonald competed in the state snowboard individual slopestyle event March 3, he had a couple other things on his mind. First, he had to be back to Leland & Gray Union High School by 5 p.m. for company notes before a 7 p.m. opening of the L&G Players' production of "Macbeth." Then he had to face the fact that this was his first time working with the Players: He'd broken through his comfort zone to play the roles of Lennox, Old Man and Seyton in the well-known Shakespearean tragedy.
Why now, in his senior year, did McDonald decide to give the Players a try?
He was convinced, he said, by Emma Urbaska — relatively new to L&G's theatre program — and by Players' newcomer and fellow senior athlete, Jordan Gouger, to join the "Macbeth" cast.
"They told me that I would regret not doing it, if I didn't give it a go. So, that is how I found myself walking into play rehearsal one day."
Of that day when he scored on his snowboard and then under the lights, McDonald said "As an athlete, mental power is very important and my mental power was truly tested that day. Switching gears from snowboarding to performing in front of an audience in costume and make up was difficult, but I got through it. In the end, I can safely say, that was a successful day not just for me but for everyone around me."
According to McDonald's mother, Beth, the winning rider pressed her to hurry back to the Townshend high school from Okemo in Ludlow where the day-long competition was held. Players' assistant director Kayla Williams, L&G '14, added that no one would have known the stress of that afternoon as McDonald slid in at 5:03 p.m. and sat to get the feedback he'd use in that night's opening. It wasn't until just before opening that director Annie Landenberger learned from L&G's Athletics and Activities Director Marty Testo of McDonald's win.
But that's not all.
Teammate and fellow senior Cody Cutler had also jumped at the chance to perform for the first time taking roles of Menteith and first murderer in Macbeth. He, too, sat calmly for notes no doubt busting with pride, for not only had McDonald taken the individual gold; the whole L&G team took first in slopestyle statewide.
"This year was tough in terms of natural precipitation, but the team was strong with natural talent," said L&G snowboarding coach, John Salzman." We didn't have more than two practices on snow before our first competition, although that didn't stop us from taking first place. It was an honor to work with these gifted riders."
"What I found most impressive about this team was their ability to overcome the mild winter and inaccessibility of practice facilities," said Testo. "They never used this as an excuse and just overcame every obstacle that came their way. A sign of a true champion."
McDonald's younger brother, Patrick, is his snowboarding teammate and was also a varsity soccer teammate in the fall. Patrick will leave March 21 for China having been selected to participate in L&G's 2016 Journey East performing arts group.
"I couldn't be more proud of L&G, " Beth McDonald said. "From our first visit to see Coach Barton and his varsity boys' soccer team when my kids were still at Windham Elementary School, I was impressed with the closeness of the L&G students, parents and community members. It was then we started attending concerts and plays — amazing entertainment right down the hill. We knew that our kids would thrive in this close-knit school and feel comfortable trying all L&G has to offer. We are extremely grateful for the diverse opportunities there."