Saints in Action, Fall/Winter 2023-2024

Saints in Action, Fall/Winter 2023-2024



Clarence Payne ’33 takes on Shakespeare

Third grader Clarence Payne inherited his love of singing and dancing from his mom, Gladys Payne. From the time he and his sister, Emma ’30, were little, Gladys and her husband, Ken, filled the house and car with kids’ songs and Disney movies. Clarence and Emma are huge fans of the “Just Dance” video game, learning the dance moves to different songs to accumulate points. Currently, Clarence is simulating his own version of a season of “Total Drama Island” using their stuffed animals!

In 2022 Clarence went to the SSSAS Summertimes Junior Musical Theater camp and loved it so much he went twice in 2023. That summer, Gladys also sent him to Camp Arena Stage. On August 17 the camp director, Mauricio Pita, called to let the Payne’s know that the Folger Theater was holding auditions for Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” and that Clarence should try out. Clarence auditioned on August 23. On August 29 the Folger Theater called with an offer for Clarence to play Mamillius and Time, roles he shared and alternated with Richard Bradford in more than 40 performances. The play marked a grand reopening for the Folger Theater, after a three-and-a-half-year renovation at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Clarence talked to us about his amazing experience with the Folger Theater.

Q: Why did you want to go to theater camp?
A: Because I love singing and dancing, and musical theater is a combination of both.

Q: What do you love most about acting? 
A: It’s being in this new fantastical world where you can be someone else—not in a weird insecure way—but where you’re doing it just so that people will like you.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being in a play? 
A: I think it’d be the interactions and how you get to watch and be entertained.

Q: What do you think of Shakespeare? Are you interested in reading more of his plays? 
A: I wouldn’t say that I’d be specifically looking for more Shakespeare auditions, but if it comes up in auditions, then I’d probably do it.

Q: Would you like to do another play? If you could choose any other play to be in, which one would it be and why? 
A: I think it would be “Matilda,” because it’s a musical and it’s one of my favorite tales of all time.

Q: What is it like working with professional actors? Did you make new friends doing the play? 
A: So, for the first question, it’s like summer camp, except it’s with adults. And for the second question, I made friends with the entire cast, and I especially loved my guardian, Angela.

Q: What process do you use for learning your lines and understanding them? 
A: I think this is the most common way. Like, I grabbed one chunk and then I was like, “Okay, this, that, this, that.” And then I grabbed other chunk and I was like, “That, this, that, this.” So, I memorized each part by doing it… By doing each part over and over and over again, and then when I was ready, I moved on to the next one.

Q: Your character, Mamillius, is very important to the play and gave the play its title when he said, “A sad tale’s best for winter, I have one of sprites and goblins.” What do you think he meant when he said that? 
A: I think since winter is all gloomy and the sky is gloomy and stuff like that, Mamillius is the equivalent to sad, if not even more depressing. He just has a sad tale about sprites and goblins.

Q: Do you have any favorite moments from your character? 
A: I can’t really pick a favorite part, because I love them all equally, because they are so good.

Q: How do you feel right before going on stage, are you nervous or excited? 
A: I feel really excited, and I know that I’m going to bring a lot of people a bunch of joy, and so that also makes me even more excited.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not in school or acting? 
A: I love to play on my piano, swim, sing, and dance.


Tate Commission ’25 has been playing the viola for only five years, but he’s already writing orchestral pieces. This fall he submitted an original composition for string orchestra, “Daydreams,” to the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Composition Festival and his work was selected for a live performance. The Festival highlights student musical compositions of all types and styles through live or recorded performance or display at VMEA’s annual conference. Submitted works may not be longer than eight minutes and compositions are evaluated based on compositional technique, musicality, and creativity.
In her student profile on Tate in the school newspaper, The Voice, Grace Hendy ’25 asked Tate what inspired his piece. “’Daydreams’ is inspired by the circle of life, from birth to death. It begins very quietly with a simple yet graceful and melancholic motif, which gradually takes on new perspectives as it weaves between the instruments in the orchestra. The melody and harmony parts gradually climb upwards and become louder throughout the first half of the piece, which all leads into a climax in the middle of the piece, consisting of a gigantic swell. However, in contrast with the romantic-period classical inspirations in the first half, the second half of the piece suddenly takes inspiration from American film music and introduces a viola solo followed by further transformation of this new yet somewhat familiar melody. Finally, the last part of the piece returns to the original motif with very quiet dynamics, eventually fading out to nothing with five final chords, representing a human’s final breaths.”
Tate and our Upper School orchestra participated in the VMEA Composition Festival in Richmond, Va., on November 16 and also performed Tate’s piece at our all-school Thanksgiving Service.


In October the Upper School Marine Biology and Wetlands Biology classes embarked on a fascinating adventure aboard the Bea Hayman Clark, a research vessel by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). 
Their three-hour boat tour took them down the Washington Channel to the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, where the exploration began. Students delved into the habitat by conducting tests on abiotic water quality parameters, examining dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, nitrates, and phosphates. 
The journey was filled with incredible sightings, including eagles, ospreys, and an array of aquatic life. A trawl performed by the CBF staff revealed a diverse range of fish, from bluegill to shad, while an unexpected guest made an appearance in the form of a massive crayfish! 
This experience left our students with a new appreciation for the biodiversity that thrives in the waters surrounding the nation’s capital.


The Alexandria Virginia Branch for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held the 90th Freedom Fund Gala, “Thriving Together,” in October. At this special event, the contributions of SSSAS Director of Institutional Equity and Diversity KiKi Davis and Associate Director of Institutional Equity and Diversity Joe Wenger were celebrated. They were recognized as Community Service Guests of Honor Recipients for their bravery and thoughtful leadership of their Racial Healing Seminars for city residents, led in coalition with the City of Alexandria Equal Justice Initiative. The Alexandria NAACP mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.


In November fourth grade Saints created an amazing arcade from reusable materials called the Crenshaw Arcade—inspired by the book “Crenshaw,” which includes themes about hunger and homelessness. To play, students and teachers donated canned goods and non-perishable foods for tickets. And the Big News is that thanks in large part to the incredible Crenshaw Arcade food drive, the school proudly raised a whopping 3,875 pounds of food for our partner non-profit, ALIVE! That was nearly two tons of generosity before Thanksgiving—an amazing achievement!


Saints Robotics, our Lower School robotics team, excelled at the First LEGO League Robotics Competition in November, securing the Best Robot Design award for Division 1 in their debut! The competition included the enthusiastic participation of 10 SSSAS team members from both fourth and fifth grades, showcasing the dedication and collaborative spirit of the team. The First Lego League (FLL) robotics competition comprises four main components, each contributing 25% to the overall assessment: Core Values, Robot Design, Innovation Project, and Robot Game.


In November eight Saints were inducted into the Tri-M Music Honor Society in a special ceremony to formally welcome and pin the new Middle and Upper School members. The Tri-M Music Honor Society is a program of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), which focuses on creating future leaders in music education and music advocacy. It is the only music honor society for middle school and high school students in the United States. Tri-M recognizes students who have gone above and beyond both academically and musically. It also provides students with leadership opportunities to make a difference in their community through music-based service projects. This year’s inductees were Elliot Desautels ’25, Declan Gaffney ’25, Anne Louden Kostel ’25, Luca Leonardo ’27, Charles McElwain ’25, Olivia Pla ’26, William Price ’25, and Safira Yisrael ’24. Ten freshmen moved from junior to senior Tri-M members: Charlotte Barnes, Kaia Brock, Jacob Cooper, Mark Driver, Noor El-Allagui, Cecil Gregg, Mia Klock, Sera Rhind-Tutt, Ella Van Giezen, and Aden Wright.


Our kindergarten students enjoyed a math activity where they used connecting cubes to build numbers 1-10, drew dots to represent the number on arrays, and then matched them to the numbers (abstract symbols). This foundational work is a crucial step in developing a deep understanding of numbers, setting the stage for a successful year ahead. The next exciting steps included comparing numbers and diving into addition and subtraction!


SSSAS hosted the eighth annual Middle School Diversity Conference in November. With the theme “The Power of Words,” more than 120 students from across the Mid-Atlantic region came together to explore how language can both harm and heal. The event featured 30 Upper School student facilitators who engaged with the participants, fostering important discussions and insights. Our keynote speaker, local hip-hop artist, poet, and teacher Jason Moore (AKA: Raw Poetic), delivered an inspiring address before the students broke up into workshop groups.


Lower School celebrated the end of Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting 123 Andrés! This Latin Grammy-winning music duo, consisting of Andrés and Christina, creates children’s music in both English and Spanish. The performance was engaging and educational, with catchy songs that had our students dancing and learning in both languages. 123 Andrés has performed for audiences all over the U.S., as well as in Puerto Rico, Panama, and Mexico. This was a fantastic way for students to learn about and appreciate Hispanic culture!


Second Lieutenant Austin Talbert-Loving ’16 spoke to the Upper School community at their Veterans Day Assembly on November 10. Austin talked about his service and the importance of three key words: self-image, identity, and leadership. In his speech, Austin shared these inspiring words: “Let’s celebrate the diversity of our veterans and their individual journeys. While our self-images and identities may differ, it’s the common thread of leadership that unites us. It’s leadership that weaves a tapestry of strength and resilience, showcasing the extraordinary achievements we can accomplish when we first expect the best from ourselves. On this Veterans Day, let us stand together in unity and appreciation for all veterans, recognizing the self-image, identity, and leadership that make each journey unique and collectively powerful.” 

After the convocation, Austin had lunch with the Saints for Veterans Club. In May 2021, Austin proudly graduated from United States Naval Academy, where he played Division I football for four years. He received a bachelor’s degree in quantitative economics and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

Q: Tell us about your current role and about your journey getting there! 
A: I currently serve in the United States Marine Corps with dual responsibilities in financial management, acting as both a disbursing officer and a comptroller. My journey began at where I transferred in my sophomore year (2013/2014). I saw an immediate shift in culture and community at SSSAS and I was able to fit right in. I played varsity football there for my three years in attendance and dabbled in some other sports (track & field). This experience ignited my passion for the game and eventually led me to commit to playing football at the Naval Academy. After graduating from USNA in May 2021, I earned a bachelor’s of science in quantitative economics and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Since then, I’ve undergone various training programs, served in different roles, and even ventured into entrepreneurship with my brand, Achieve Transcend Lead (ATL).

Q: Did a specific experience or a particular person inspire you to follow this journey?
A: My journey was inspired by my love for football, a strong commitment to education, and personal development. When I first received the offer, I remember people saying things like “This is the best decision you could ever make.” “This decision is going to change your family’s life forever.” I always knew that I was a leader and knew that I wanted to be challenged. So, I combined my passions with my desires and made the commitment to the Academy. 

Q: What are the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your job?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is undoubtedly the sense of service and the opportunity to make a positive impact on my community and the marines that I work with. In Quantico I am the officer in charge (OIC) of a section of about 12 marines. Not only is the performance of the section my responsibility, but the physical, mental, and emotional welfare of my team is my responsibility as well.  That comes with its challenges, too. The military demands dedication and discipline and can be physically and mentally challenging, especially when dealing with complex financial management tasks and responsibilities, upholding the physical standards of the Marine Corps and balancing a personal/social life. You are a Marine 24/7 so you are never off of the clock. Everything that you do is a representation of the Corps and the standard must never drop.

Q: What is something that most people wouldn’t know about working in the Marine Corps, or the military in general?
A: People may not know about the many opportunities that are available, not only in the Marine Corps but also in the military in general. Although you are either in the fight or supporting the fight, there are so many pieces to the puzzle and if one is missing or incomplete the military would not be as feared as it is today. For example, my specialty is financial management in Quantico and my section is responsible for paying travel claim reimbursements for every member traveling in and out of the National Capital region as well as general officers and their staff. My section pays out anywhere between one and three million dollars a week. On the comptroller side of things in the pentagon I am a budget officer and I am mostly in charge of the movement of funds. The budget that I manage is over $200 million dollars. 

Q: What advice would you give to a current Saint who might be interested in a career in the military?
A: For any Saint aspiring to pursue a career in the military, I would advise them to focus on their education and physical fitness. Critical thinking skills are crucial. It is a leader’s job to manage problems and make quick decisions. You will always have a full plate so being mentally and physically sharp will allow you to have the stamina to withstand the many demands that your job will ask of you. As a leader you must lead from the front, setting the example and the standard by doing your best every day.