by Matt Delaney
The 16th annual Mr. and Mrs. Mason pageant/competition has come and gone with this year’s winners being an outgoing pair of seniors, Mary Catherine Donovan and Zach Ellis.
Mr. and Mrs. Mason contestants are judged in four different categories: a prepared bio followed by the talent portion, and for the finalists, formal wear and a questionnaire to finish. This year’s judges had a taste for the obscure as both Donovan and Ellis won the competition and the King and Queen’s crown for Falls Church’s annual Memorial Day parade in an unconventional manner.
Donovan was a last minute entry who infatuated the crowd with her bubbly persona, while Ellis’ wit smoothed over his frictional start to the competition.
The two took some time to chat with the News-Press about the Mr. and Mrs. Mason competition, their postgrad plans, and to reflect on their experience at Mason.
News-Press: How did you two become Mr. and Mrs. Mason?
Donovan: Originally, I was really hesitant in participating because I had a lot going on with IB. But Mr. [Peter] Laub, the coordinator, convinced me to do it because it really was an honor to be nominated. I wrote a parody of Adele’s “Hello” to IB a few days before the actual performance and I was pretty unprepared for the rest of it.
I didn’t have an escort. I pulled my dad out of the audience to walk me across the stage. I was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt and fuzzy slippers because I was not expecting to make it to the formal wear portions. I sang my song and the crowd loved it. I really did not expect to win at all.
Ellis: Last year Mr. Laub wanted me to make the video for the candidates, so I did, and after [that] I complained about how I was not a candidate. I think some teachers must’ve heard me and nominated me. Once I was nominated I knew that I had complained too much to not win.
N-P: Graduation’s coming up. What’re your summer and college plans after the big day?
Ellis: I’m gonna go to William & Mary and I wanna study film or writing. For summer vacation, me and my friends are gonna go on a road trip.
Donovan: I’m going to the University of Dayton in Ohio. No clue what I want to study or anything, but I’m looking forward to it. This summer I’m working at Creative Cauldron which is a local theater company as a camp counselor for a few weeks and I’m going to a lake with my friends.
N-P: Do either of you have an ideal career in mind?
Ellis: I want to direct movies – but I’m sure that’s what anyone who wants to do something involving movies says. My goal is to direct the best “Spiderman” movie ever. The Andrew Garfield ones were terrible, which is good because it made it easier for me, but tough because [Spiderman] was really good in “Captain America: Civil War.” But I think I can do it.
Donovan: I definitely want to do something with music and singing in the future, but I don’t really know.
N-P: You both know how unique Mason is compared to Fairfax County schools. How was your own experience?
Ellis: I like Mason a lot. I moved here in fifth grade [and] it was a lot smaller than all the [other] schools I went to, but I liked that because everyone knew everyone. I wasn’t just some weird kid, I was Zach, that weird kid everyone knows.
Donovan: I’m a lifer here in Falls Church. I’ve been here since Mount Daniel [Elementary School]. I do think it’s really good because like [Zach] said you know everybody and it’s nice to have so many friendly faces around the school.
N-P: Anything challenging about going to such a small school?
Ellis: It could be tough. I do the announcements and one time I called out my [Theory of Knowledge] teacher. He called me out in his class, so for a while it was awkward to have [class] with him.
Donovan: Sometimes it’s difficult because you’re with the same group of friends since kindergarten. When we grow up we realize we’re different people. Even now I’m not that close with the people I was the past few years, but I get along great with everyone, so I think it’s a positive experience rather than a negative one.
N-P: Is there anything you wish you would’ve done differently in high school?
Ellis: I wish I would’ve gotten involved in more things earlier, but I guess everyone wishes that. I also wish I had put more thought into college. I decided I didn’t want to go to [BYU] last minute, but William & Mary’s a great school so I don’t have anything to complain about.
Donovan: Because I played volleyball I was never able to do a musical or a school play, which I kind of regret, and I know my theater teacher was bummed about it, too. I’m also sad that I never got a detention because my math teacher is Mr. [Erik] Healey and [also] the Dean of Students and he makes fun of me for it.
N-P: What’s one thing you’d tell your freshman self now, if you could?
Donovan: Don’t be afraid to branch out and meet new people. Like I said, we go to Mason and it’s small so a lot of the people are friends since elementary school. Sometimes that just doesn’t work out, so I say branch out and be confident and go for stuff. I also wish I started singing in the eighth grade, instead of waiting until last year.
Ellis: I would tell myself that you are going to be awesome, even more than you are now. I’d tell him to stay motivated and to continue making videos for his YouTube channel [and] would write a list down of things that I wish had gone differently so we’d both be better off.