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Panther Post: Area's drama students are a class act

BY Jodi Schultz


I was so glad to read the article by Kalee Holland in the Feb. 15 edition of the Park Rapids Enterprise. As Kalee indicated, some high school activities are less visible to the public than others. Having a student submit articles about the speech season will give the community the opportunity to learn more about one of these programs. Another program I think people would be interested in learning about is the one act play competition.

Following is my story of the 2012 season:

Recently, a Park Rapids High School team finished the season one win shy of defending their section title and securing another state berth. The team to which I refer is the cast and crew of "The Chronicles of Jane, Book Seven" - the Park Rapids entry in the one act play contest. Though one act competition is not a sport, it is a Minnesota State High School League activity and the participants are held to the same code of eligibility and rules of conduct. In many ways, a student actor's experience parallels that of a student athlete. A group of students with a shared interest comes together under the direction of a coach and becomes a team with all members working toward a common goal, a successful production. Individual differences are set aside for the good of the group as each participant works to master the role he or she is assigned.

After hours and weeks of rehearsing; memorizing lines, fine tuning timing, working on diction, intonation, and vocal projection, the kids are ready to perform for an audience. They also perform for judges. The judges rate the performances, based on a specific list of criteria, and the group with the highest score continues on to the next level of competition. The time between the final play and the awards ceremony can seem endless as an auditorium full of hopeful teens awaits the announcement. At the time, it feels to each of them that a first place medal and the chance to advance in competition are the ultimate rewards for their efforts. Winning is a thrill and something to celebrate, but as a member of the audience, I've witnessed greater and more lasting rewards. Involvement in the arts, including theater, seems to foster an attitude of respect even amongst competitors.

During the day, whenever a group returns to the auditorium after receiving a critique from one of the judges, everyone in the auditorium applauds. When the emcee arrived to announce the results, students led the applause and team members from the opposing schools reached into the aisles to congratulate the medal winners as they exited the stage. The exemplary show of sportsmanship from our area students was a class act and affirmed my belief that kids can be our greatest teachers.

The first and second place winners, Park Rapids, and Laporte, advanced to the section competition in Wadena. Only one team would advance beyond the section. Park Rapids hoped to continue their winning streak and be the school representing our section at state. They took their turn on stage just before the lunch break. They were the fourth of eight schools to perform that day. Their performance was amazing - the best they'd done. They peaked at the right time. They were definitely in the running for first place. There were other outstanding performances that day too. The air was charged with anticipation as everyone waited to hear the judges' decision at the end of the day.

Finally, the moment arrived. Third place was announced. The audience held its breath. The second place play was announced: "The Chronicles of Jane, Book Seven." There was a barely audible intake of breath from the Park Rapids section as they realized that, for the first time in 4 years, they would not be going to state. Without pause they stood, heads held high, and climbed the stairs to the stage to receive their second place medals. They carried themselves like winners, smiling and returning the judges' congratulatory handshakes, and made their way back to their seats. Upon hearing the announcement that Wadena - Deer Creek's play, Relativity, was the winner, the Park Rapids group led in the standing ovation. My heart swelled with pride at the quality of character they were demonstrating.

I have to credit the adults who coach and guide our Park Rapids drama students, and all those in similar roles in schools across the state. They are teaching our kids so much more than acting. They're also teaching respect for self and others, humility, and sportsmanship. They're teaching our kids to be true champions no matter how they place in competition. For them and for all the kids who were a part of the 2012 One Act Season, a resounding "Bravo!" I'll be in the audience when the curtain rises on next year's show.