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One-act play earns 'star' at State

Talk about learning from experience. After making their first trip to the state One Act Play Festival last year, the Esko High School cast, crew and directors placed first in the Section 7A competition again this year and were one of only a handful of schools to receive the coveted "starred performance" award. Esko was one of four Class A schools to get a star.

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

Co-director Joyce Bergstedt compared Liv to the Sheldon Cooper character in "The Big Bang Theory" TV series. "Liv is a math genius who doesn't pick up on social cues. There is comedy, but she doesn't mean to be funny," Bergstedt said. "She is befriended by Mia Gregory, who is a sunshiny normal kid whose sister dies by suicide when she is in fourth grade."

Understanding how a traumatic event like that would affect a child into their teenage years is part of Liv's journey in the play, as is learning how to be a good friend, Bergstedt said, adding that the cast and crew visited with a mental health professional to learn more about how people react to trauma, especially at a young age.

Unlike other high school plays and musicals, One Act is a Minnesota State High School League competitive activity. A One Act play is limited to a maximum running time of 35 minutes 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 Friday, Feb. 10.

Bergstedt and co-director Laura Zimny both credit having students involved every step of the way - from selecting the play, to lighting, set and costume design, blocking, vocal interpretation and other creative decisions - as key to their success. So is choosing plays that are impactful.

Bergstedt said all three state judges ranked Esko as "exemplary" - the highest ranking - in every area on the critique sheet, including reactions, interaction, projection, diction, technical elements, educational value, overall effectiveness of ensemble and more.

Bergstedt said the students were "spot on" with their characterizations.

"It was a great experience," she said. "Our kiddos really, they were phenomenal."

The One Act group planned for one final public performance at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the school auditorium.

 
 
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