A panel of judges, after watching, listening, and then individually critiquing eight Class AA dramatic productions, rated four of them “starred performances” on Thursday, February 13, during the 2014 State One Act Play Festival sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League. The two-day festival was conducted at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the St. Catherine University campus in St. Paul. Eight productions by Class A schools will be staged on Friday, Feb. 14.
The top eight Class AA productions from across the state took the stage throughout the day. The four schools whose performances were cited for “starred performances” were (in order of performance): Eastview of Apple Valley for Frozen, Buffalo for The Triangle Factory Fire Project, Eagan for The Diviners, and Irondale of New Brighton for The Actor’s Nightmare. The other participating schools were New Prague, Duluth East, Little Falls, and Robbinsdale Cooper.
Representing Section 1, Eastview’s “starred performance” of Frozen by Bryony Lavery was directed by Scott Durocher and Rob Rachow. Aria Stiles composed the original instrumental music. Eastview, which is located in Apple Valley, was making its 10th appearance and earned its 10th “starred” rating. The Lightning earned their other “starred” ratings in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. This production starts when 10-year-old Rhona goes missing. Her mother, Nancy, retreats into a state of frozen hope. Agnetha, an academic, researches her thesis: “Serial Killing—A Forgivable Act?” Then there’s Ralph, a loner who’s looking for some distraction. Drawn together by horrific circumstances, these three embark on a long dark journey which finally curves upward into the light. Angry, humane and compassionate, Frozen entwines the lives of a murderer, a mother of one of his victims, and his psychologist to explore our capacity for forgiveness, remorse and change after an act that would seem to rule them out entirely. Cast members were Kacie Riddle, Rachel Williams, and Mason Swain. Support personnel were Sophie Dahedl, Sarah Amundson, Kelsey Arndt, Michelle Chen, Olivia Chrysler, Brian Coan, Allison Dodge, Sarah Faste, Brady Haesemeyer, Holly Hepp, Andy Johns, Michelle Jones, Paige Kraemer, Taylor Orman, Bhoomi Parikh, Ellen Plumb, and Noah Skantz.
Representing Section 5, Buffalo’s “starred performance” of The Triangle Factory Fire Project by Christopher Piehler and Scott Alan Davis was directed by Tracy Hagstrom Durant and Jaime West. This was Buffalo’s seventh “starred” rating in 16 appearances. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 took the lives of 146 workers, most of whom were young women immigrants between the ages of 13 and 23. This tragedy was among the worst industrial fires in New York City history, but its aftermath was even more shocking. The Triangle Factory Fire Project uses eyewitness accounts, court transcripts, and other archival material to create a dramatic moment-by-moment account of this historic fire and the social upheaval that followed. It culminates in the manslaughter trial of the owners, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, whose shocking acquittal inspires new outrage across New York and the entire country. The repercussions shaped social, political and economic policies for decades to come. By using real words spoken by real people, The Triangle Factory Fire Project paints a heartbreakingly clear picture of a disastrous day in American history, and explores the human toll such a tragedy takes on us all. Cast members were Alec Waters, Bryce Bishop, Mallory Rabehl, Katie Swartzer, Emma Hage, Mickey Capps, Noah Gilbertson, Digory Anderson, Sydney Segelstrom, Mitchell Benson, Rachel Patterson, Solveig Nelson, Katie Miller, Jonah Schmitz, Erica Hoops, Emma Maxson, and Brandon Bednarek. Support personnel were Grace Walker, Ian Haney, and Grant Walker. In addition to this year, Buffalo also earned “starred” ratings in 1973, 1982, 1986, 1997, 2002, and 2005.
Representing Section 3, Eagan’s “starred performance” of The Diviners by Jim Leonard, Jr. was directed by Nancy Owzarek. The Diviners begins when a disillusioned preacher named C. C. Showers takes on work in a small Indiana town. He soon meets a brain-damaged teenage boy named Buddy Layman who has been abnormally terrified of water since age four when his mother drowned saving him. Miraculously, Buddy seems to have been left with a gift: he is a diviner and can locate precious underground aquifers. The two become fast friends and C.C. soon finds himself acting as Buddy's mentor and teacher. C.C. seems to be able to relate to Buddy in ways that most people can't. Shortly after settling in, C. C. reveals that he is a former preacher who has lost faith in his vocation. The townsfolk have been praying for a preacher. The conflicts of interest soon evolve into a crisis that leads to a great tragedy. Cast members were Nicholas Saxton, Jackson Cobb, Zach Markon, Sarah Paulus, Luke Kruenegel, Sarah Lardy, Kasia Guzior, Lizzie Sandstrom, Will Cobbett, Sam Chipman, and Miriam Barnicle. Support personnel were Dan Debner, Chloe Reynolds, Victoria Pollock, Morgan Rainford, Camille Nierengarten, and Megan Grindeland. Eagan was making its 19th appearance and earned its 18th “starred” rating. The Wildcats earned previous “starred” ratings in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Representing Section 4, Irondale’s “starred performance” of The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang was directed by Janet Paone. John A. Woskoff designed the sets and costumes. Irondale, which is located in New Brighton, was making its first festival appearance. In this production, a man finds himself inexplicably backstage one day. When he is confronted by the stage manager, Meg, it becomes apparent that he is the understudy for an actor named Edwin and as "Eddie" apparently broke both his legs, the man must perform in his stead. The man is referred to as "George" throughout the play, despite him feeling that it is not his real name. He cannot remember attending any rehearsals or being an actor at all (he instead believes that he is an accountant). To make matters worse, he is unable to get a straight answer as to what the play is. An actress named Sarah tells him that it is a Noël Coward play (Private Lives) and the other actress, Ellen, tells him that it is a Samuel Beckett play called Checkmate (which seems to have elements of the plays Endgame, Happy Days, and Waiting for Godot). Literally forced on stage, George attempts to improvise his lines; however, the play inconsistently shifts between scenes from Private Lives, Hamlet, Checkmate, and A Man for All Seasons. When forced to improvise a soliloquy in the Hamlet scene, George tells the audience that he was raised in a Catholic school and was interested in joining a monastery but they told him to wait until he was older. When he was older, however, he lost faith. As he put it, "I don't know many Catholic adults.” In the final part of the play (A Man for all Seasons), George is alarmed to learn that he is to play the part of Sir Thomas More - and the execution seems a bit too real for his liking. While attempting to convince himself that he is merely in a dream, George ends up theorizing that one can't dream of his own death and therefore he will wake up just before he is beheaded. He accepts the execution, but appears to really be dead during curtain call, much to the cast's confusion. Cast members were Ryan Bockenhauer, Allison Aabel, Anna Matthess, Katie Sondrol, Obiora Obikwelu, and Vishnu Nambooiridpod. Support personnel were Matthew Vanbruggen, Katie Deutsch, Will Hensley, and Sarah Wika.
The Minnesota State High School League State One Act Play Festival does not involve direct competition. Judges rate the plays according to specific criteria, including pace, blocking, costuming, and projection of the play’s meaning. Each production is limited to 10 minutes of stage preparation and 35 minutes of actual performance.
The judges consult after each production and then openly critique each in front of the cast, crew, and audience. “Starred performance” ratings are determined by private balloting of the judges. One school from each of eight sections in each class gets to perform at the state level. Two hundred and ninety-eight teams participated in One Act Play this season, 206 in Class A and 92 in Class AA.
Each cast and crew member involved with these four “starred performance” productions was also presented a Spotlight on the Arts Award of Excellence recognition pin. This is a fine arts recognition award created by Wells Fargo, the League’s premier sponsor, in cooperation with the League. The casts and crews were also awarded a handsome acrylic trophy incorporating the Spotlight on the Arts logo.
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