COVID-19 has forced changes in many things this year, but one thing that did not change was Waunakee High School’s continued success on the state stage. Waunakee High School entered three plays in this year’s One Act Theater Festival. Two came back with the top award and the third earned other significant awards.

Usually, schools are allowed to enter only one play per season, but the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association (WHSFA) decided to allow schools to enter more than one this year so they could adjust to the ever changing COVID restrictions. While most schools still entered only one play, Waunakee was one of only three schools to attempt three plays. No schools entered more.

Since having multiple schools meet face to face in host facilities for each level of performance was not a viable option, schools had the choice between filming in person on their home stage or recording a Zoom performance. While the majority opted to film on stage with masks (55%), Waunakee opted to enter all three plays via Zoom which forced them to adapt to an entirely different approach to presenting the plays.

Judges commented on how well Waunakee adjusted to the zoom approach. One judge said that the play, “What Dreams May Come” was “the best done Zoom One Act Play I’ve seen yet this year.” Comments from other judges for the other plays echoed that sentiment.

The first play presented at the Virtual State Theater Festival was “Aunt Leaf” which earned the top Award of Critics’ Choice with one judge saying, “They clearly understood the content and took risks in their delivery that paid off. Production overall was really strong and proved that we can still deliver high quality content in this strange and interesting time.”

The cast of “Aunt Leaf” also earned an Ensemble Acting award while Allison Smith (playing Aunt Leaf) and Ruby Hlathein (playing Annabelle) earned Individual Acting Awards. Waunakee High School Drama Director Rick Braun earned a Directing Award and the entire group was nominated for a Crew Award. The cast and crew of “Aunt Leaf” included Zack Curton, Ruby Hlathein, Allison Jensema, Rachel Kietzman, Emma Lorang, Emma Maas, Elliot Petroff, Delaney Pfieffer, Porter Schwartz, Allison Smith, Noah Stevens, and Abby Truscott.

The second play of the day was “The Importance of Being Earnest,”which was directed by student, Zach Grasee who also edited the full length play into the one act script that was used. Zach received many positive comments about his cutting which “was a solid cutting of the show,” according to one judge. He was also nominated for a Directing Award.

The cast of “Earnest” earned an Ensemble Acting Award. Allison Horvatin was the judge-pleaser of this show, earning an Individual Acting Award for her performance as Gwendolen Fairfax. Olivia Mayrand (as Cecily Cardew) and Zuzanna Zielinska (as Miss Prism) were nominated for the award as well. This group was also nominated for a Crew Award. The cast and crew of “Earnest” were Zach Grasee, Sean Hall, Allison Horvatin, Alliah Lutes, Milana Lutess, Olivia Mayrand, Izabella Moore, David Petty, and Zuzanna Zielinska.

The final play of the day was “What Dreams May Come,” which was written by the cast and crew, with the guidance and direction of Waunakee Alum Heidi Armbruster. This play won the coveted Critics’ Choice award inspiring one judge to comment, “The concept will stick with after this viewing … I applaud your efforts to highlight and bring to life the happy and anxious moments of teens in 2020.”

Like the other Waunakee plays, the cast of “Dreams” earned an Ensemble Acting Award. Caden Collins (playing Alex) earned an Individual Acting Award nomination. This group was also nominated for a Crew Award. The cast and crew of “Dreams” were Caden Collins, Brianne Kieta, Keala Loya, Ash Mouille, Payton Pearce, Josie Petroff, Gavin Schellenbach, Kayla Stratcher, and Abigail Stringer.

Drama Director Rick Braun was very pleased with the outcome.

“When I look back on this year, I am astonished by what the students have accomplished. We had a student director who took the state stage with seasoned veterans and held his own. We had a new director work with a large number of One Act rookies on a play that didn’t even exist three months ago. We had a group of one-act veterans working with the old director trying to learn new ways to tell a theatrical story. And we had all three plays manage to earn the Ensemble Award for working together even though we were each in our own little zoom window,” Braun said.

“Even though I don’t ever want to experience One Act this way again and I really look forward to working with students on the WHS Performing Arts Center stage, I am really proud of the effort and results of this year’s group. They really rose to the occasion.”

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