Coon Rapids HS qualifies for state one-act play contest

Coon Rapids High School was one of eight schools to qualify for the state one-act play festival, which took place at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University, St. Paul.

Nathan Bambenek, Charlotte Kuntz, Ethan Thomason and Kayli McIntyre were among the cast of Coon Rapids High School’s performance at the one-act play contest. Photo by Rick Orndorf, ECM Sun

Nathan Bambenek, Charlotte Kuntz, Ethan Thomason and Kayli McIntyre were among the cast of Coon Rapids High School’s performance at the one-act play contest. Photo by Rick Orndorf, ECM Sun

Coon Rapids won the Section 5 one-act play competition to advance to the state class AA event Feb. 7.

According to Karla Haij, Coon Rapids High School theater director, eight schools competed in the section festival.

“Our region is a powerhouse of talented directors and actors that represent great high school theater programs,” Haij wrote in an email.

“It was truly an honor to represent Section 5AA.”

The Coon Rapids production included three plays – “The M Word,” “Three Tables” and “Dance Lessons.”

According to Haij, one of the many rules for the one-act play competition is that total running length cannot exceed 35 minutes.

“As I was reading plays, I found that there were numerous plays that attracted my attention that were in the 12-15 minute length,” Haij wrote.

“I started with ‘Dance Lessons’ and then tried to find two other plays that I could weave into ‘Dance Lessons’ and create a one act.”

Haij looked at Tony Award winning playwrights and then looked further into their bodies of work to find one acts, she said.

“I found the process a creative and rewarding challenge,” Haij said.

In performance order, Coon Rapids presented “The M Word,” “Three Tables” and “Dance Lessons.”

According to the state one-act festival program, the three plays, which were set in a restaurant, focused on four very different couples at various stages in their relationships, and two members of the waitstaff.

The production had 18 student cast members and two other support personnel.

Auditions began the week after the Christmas/New Year’s break followed immediately by rehearsals, Haij said.

“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with students from Coon Rapids High School,” she wrote.

“Our theater students are committed to their work and a joy to direct. They make my job easy.”

While Coon Rapids was not one of the four schools to receive “starred performances” at the state festival, Haij said the critiques from the judges were very complementary.

Judges noted the strength of the ensemble, strong believable characterization, great attention to detail as well as strong individual performances, according to Haij.

Cast members were Lauren Beckman, Marc Stevenson, Charlotte Kuntz, Nathan Bambenek, Ethan Thomason, Kayli McIntyre, Ruby Carlson, Isaac Quick, Courtney VonVett, Nick Fletcher, Ryan Ballweber, Tanner Liubakka, Billy Lammers, Kristal Kozicki, Natalie Schmitz, Jacob Summerville, Andrew Swaser and Derrick Wiberg.

Students providing technical support were Jennifer Higgins and Nicole Nelson.

Sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League, the one-act play festival does not involve direct competition.

Rather judges rate plays according to specific criteria, including pace, blocking, costuming and projection of the play’s meaning.

Besides the 35 minutes of actual performance, stage preparation is limited to 10  minutes.

According to the state high school league press release, 297 teams took part in the one-play this season, 208 in class A and 89 in class AA.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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