One act a unique challenge

Posted on: Jan 22, 2020

One act a unique challenge

A small group of Delano High School actors will enter subsection competition this weekend, performing a little-known one act that carries a big message.

“I’ve never seen a high school do it,” said DHS language arts teacher and play director Joe Lawrence of Delano’s production, “I Will Go … I Will Go …” by Glen Berger. “I wanted to pick a show that nobody else has done. It gives you a chance to experiment and be creative and not do what somebody else has done because, in the case of this play, nobody knows what anybody else has done except for the Off-Broadway people who did it 30 years ago.”

Lawrence said the play’s obscurity is likely due to its difficulty, because its material is compelling.

“The writing is phenomenal,” he said. “As much of a challenge as it is, I thought it would be fun to try to make something this esoteric work in a high school setting with high school kids.”

The play tells the fictionalized story of Henry Sullivan, the first American to swim across the English Channel in 1923, and the sacrifices he made to achieve that feat. In his preoccupation with preparing for the swim Sullivan lost the love of his life, and during the swim itself Sullivan lost his hearing.

“It’s a tragedy about people with misplaced priorities,” said Lawrence. “It examines the ‘win-at-all-costs’ mindset. This guy was the first American to swim the English Channel, but nobody remembers him, and he lost a whole lot in this single-minded pursuit of something he thought would change the world.”

Sophomore John Lahlum plays the role of Sullivan, and said the responsibility of portraying a historical character in a drama is much different than the comedic approach found in Delano’s recent musicals.

“It’s definitely a good learning opportunity,” he said. “I’m taking a lot more away from this than I thought I would. The one act is Acting 101. This is what real actors do.”

Lawrence explained that the production requires a different approach than a typical school show, but that his cast and crew have the skills to make it work.

“It’s dramatic acting,” he said. “It’s much artsier. They need to use shadow and light and fabric and music to tell a story. It’s a lot of work to be able to find the nuance in the character, so it’s a big challenge for our actors. But we have kids who I knew could pull off the lead roles, which are normally cast for adults.”

A unique show
Senior Piper Eagle, in her first appearance on the stage in Delano, plays the role of an omniscient narrator who oversees all of the action in the play.

“The show is really abstract, I think, in terms of the set pieces and the point of view the story is told from, which is interesting for a high school one act,” Eagle said, adding that she has some previous theater experience from her former school in Wayzata. “I think it all really goes well together. It’s very metaphorical.”

Junior Sophie Stevens, who plays the role of Sullivan’s love interest Grace, agreed.

“It has a dreamlike quality to it, I think, which makes it really special,” she said. “It’s very different from anything we’ve done, and very different from what a lot of people at our school have seen.”

Lahlum said much of the meaning of the performance is conveyed outside the dialogue, leaving many conclusions up to the perspective of the viewer. 

“It’s not your typical show,” he said. “It’s nuanced. It’s left up to the audience to interpret. We just guide them to those ideas. The characters are human, they have complex emotions, so sometimes it’s a little difficult to know what they’re thinking.”

Eagle agreed that many of the production’s themes must be conveyed through expressions and actions rather than words. 

“That can be challenging to do in a way where everyone watching is able to pick up on what’s being presented,” she said.

Competition begins Saturday
One act play is a Minnesota High School League competition that pits drama groups against one another in competition. Judges evaluate each performance and determine which schools advance to section and state competition. 

Although a festival performance in Prior Lake was canceled due to weather, students were able to practice their performance in front of their peers in a school performance on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and a public performance took place on Thursday, Jan. 24. 

This year’s subsection competition takes place in Rogers on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Post Categories: High School