Esko one-act to hit state stage


February 10, 2023

Contributed photo

After 21 years without a section win, the Esko High School One Act play is now returning to the State One Act Play Festival Friday, Feb. 10, for the second year in a row.

After placing second at subsections on Jan. 28, Esko took first place at the Section 7A competition on Feb. 4.

The 19-student cast and crew performed "The Inexplicable Chaos Factor of Mia Gregory" by Emily Hageman. The play tells the story of Liv, a brilliant teenage mathematician, who struggles to understand the one person she can call her friend.

Unlike other high school plays and musicals, One Act is a Minnesota State High School League competitive activity. Each play is limited to 35 minutes maximum time and 20 total cast and crew members. Esko had to get past 23 other regional teams in Section 7A to advance to the Class A state competition, including Carlton County schools Moose Lake, Barnum and Cromwell-Wright.

Co-director Joyce Bergstedt credits their newfound success with choosing plays that are going to be impactful.

"Last year's play touched on the topic of 9/11 and this year's play is about mental health," she said.

Co-director Laura Zimny said winning is nice, but there's more to it.

"Having a common goal of bringing the script to life and having such an important message to share gives everyone a reason to work hard," she said. "When the goal is creating a piece of art that moves audiences, the focus shifts away from doing things just to win and settles on the more important part of the experience, which is to grow together as a team and to push each other to the edges of our abilities."

Zimny also stressed the inclusion of student voices in the creation of the production, from selecting next year's play the week after the season ends, to lighting schemes, set design, costumes, blocking, vocal interpretation and more.

"The collective perspective ... gives us a more diverse interpretation of the script than we would have if just a singular individual were making those same creative decisions," Zimny said.

Feedback from the Section judge was a kind of backhanded compliment: she told them their play "wasn't perfect" but also recommended they embrace the imperfections.

"We believe the judge stated this because a big theme in our production is the chaos of a traumatic event," Bergstedt said. "She also commented on our strong characterizations and costuming. On the judging forms, many judges pointed out the extreme detail with the technical elements that helped us stand out."

Bergstedt said the entire team is excited to perform at St. Catherine University for the festival on Friday.

Contributed photo

The Esko High School One Act Play team is headed to State again, this year with a play that touches on mental illness. In this photo, teenage math genius Liv (far left) has started to take her mathematics class at college. The professor has welcomed the students to college where everyone is "serious and boring" and then directed them to do an equation.

"The topic of mental health is not often discussed openly, but it really should be, because so many people struggle with it," she said. "To be given the opportunity to share the message of the play at the state level is super exciting."

Zombies die at sections

The Cloquet High School performance of "Ten Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse" took third place at Section 7AA subsections to advance to the Section competition, but their run ended there. The play is a comedic exploration of 10 scenarios where survivors of a zombie apocalypse try to avoid being eaten by ravenous zombies.

"I feel like my kids did amazing," said first-year director Joshua Porter, a theater major at University of Wisconsin-Superior. "It was the best acting I've seen in a long time."

Porter likes the One Act competition because it gives students an opportunity to see what other schools are doing without having to travel to all the different schools.

"Plus they meet new people and get new connections in the area of theater," he said.


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