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One-act play has 12th star performance

Park Rapids Area High School one-act play participants earned the school its 12th "starred performance" in its 25th appearance at the state one-act play festival Saturday in St. Paul for their performance of "The Whole Shebang." Cast and crew members include, front, from left, director Julie Kjenaas, Jake Grimes, Ben Pilkey, Emily Schwartz, Jenny Palm, Sean Hayes and Nathan Gebhard; second row, Thong Phan, Michelle Farlee, Rachel Fineday, Amanda Splittstoesser, Kelsey Adolphson, Natasha Shabaiash, Katie ...

Park Rapids Area High School actors and actresses earned the school its 12th "starred performance" in its 25th appearance at the state one-act play festival Saturday in St. Paul.

But it was fraught with a last minute, knuckle-biting calamity.

A half-hour before they were to take the stage at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium, the cast of "The Whole Shebang" discovered they'd left half the costumes in a box in Park Rapids.

Facing what many would consider catastrophic, the cast and crew rose to the task, director Juliann Kjenaas reported. They created three judges' costumes from borrowed black clothing, employing duct tape to cover buckles, labels on jeans and keeping collars upright.

Jake Grimes' character was transformed from an overweight, middle-aged fellow to a root beer drinking younger guy (minus a pot belly), wearing a tank top.

"The kids were outstanding," Kjenaas reported. "It was the best performance they have ever done."

The costume debacle "would have thrown other casts into turmoil," she said. "But (the Park Rapids cast and crew) came up with ideas and kept it together. I am very proud of them."

Of the top eight Class A productions from across the state, the Park Rapids and Pipestone productions were the only two cited for "starred performances."

All three judges gave the students exemplary ratings. One of them mentioned he'd seen several productions of Rich Orloff's play. "Ours was by far the best," Kjenaas was told. The students "captured exactly what the writer meant it to be," the judge told her.

The play presents a student giving an oral presentation to his professors on an unusual thesis, utilizing a couple of interesting visual aids. It's characterized as a witty fantasy and a wry observation on the great questions of the universe.

Cast members were Nathan Gebhard, Sean Hayes, Jenny Palm, Ben Pilkey, Jacob Grimes and Eryn Simpson.

Support personnel were Jason Dennis, Jacob Froelich, Michelle Farlee, Sarah Schultz, Emily Schwartz, Brandon Hanson, Rachel Fineday, Luke Swenson, Alana McKeever, Katie Johnson, Kelsey Adolphson, Amanda Splittstoesser, Tony Schmid and Natasha Shabaiash.

Jonathan Harrison was technical director for the production.

Park Rapids Area High School earned previous top ratings at the festival in 1972, '75, '76, '78, '79, 1982, 1991, '93, '94, 2000 and '09.

"It was quite the day," Kjenaas said.