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One-act cast, crew set sights on state

By Staff | Nov 15, 2019

Submitted photo RHS One Act play team members BACK ROW (left to right): Amber Selensky, Emilee Lindstrom, Lilly Schmidt, Melody Johnson, Katelyn Duchscher FRONT ROW: Zarah-Mae Keenan, Kate Heidlebaugh, Sasha Klein.

Rugby High School’s one-act play team is setting their sights on state after winning the Region IV competition last Thursday at Rugby High School.

The team will travel to Jamestown for the North Dakota Class B Play Contest to be held Nov. 25-27 on the University of Jamestown campus.

The seven-member team won regionals with its performance of “Cheating Death,” a play by Kamron Klitgaard. Six cast members and one technical crew member comprise the team, coached by Michael Hurly.

Technical team member Sasha Klein described her work for the production as “mainly the lights.” The set for the play consists of a half-circle of chairs.

“Cheating Death” tells the story of a group of mental hospital patients waiting for their group therapy session. “Death,” a character played by Kate Heidlebaugh, approaches the group looking for Sam Johnson, a patient whose time to die has come.

The group discovers Death’s mission and decides to play some tricks.

“I played the real Sam Johnson,” said Emilee Linstrom. She said she is evading Death while everyone is telling Death they’re Sam Johnson.

The play’s script was written with some male characters so Rugby High’s all-female cast changed the names.

“The person I played, his name is Ron but for the purpose of the cast, we switched it to Rhonda,” said cast member Katelyn Duchscher,

Cast member Lilly Schmidt said, “I played Anne. She was the know-it-all character so she was constantly spitting facts and running the group basically. She really loved control. She was a fun character.”

Zarah-Mae Keenan said, “I played Deb, and she was the wistful dreamer and wisher of the crazy bunch. “

Amber Selensky played Bob, which she described as “originally a male’s role, but it was Bobby for the sake of the play. She had all these crazy, unconventional ideas that would be frowned upon by regular people.”

Heidlebaugh described how she portrayed Death: “I dressed up. I wore black high heels to make myself look taller. I had a black three-piece suit on and I temporarily dyed my hair to look black. I painted my face to look dead. We wanted to make Death look more like a businessperson. We wanted to make it look like they were going there to do business and it was strictly business, and that’s all.”

Hurly said one-act play’s format and simple set designs present unique challenges.

“It’s timed by performance,” he said, “and we have a maximum of 40 minutes. If we go past 40 minutes, we get docked. And again, it’s one act. But it’s an entire play in one act. The challenge is to keep the pace moving, and have all the actresses working cohesively, and they work very well together. It’s like a small family”

Cast members said after they present the play for judges, they get feedback to use for future performances.

“The feedback is stuff you can try to practice with,” Duchscher said.

Heidlebaugh said participants at the state competition will divide into two groups of schools and compete in those groups first. “Then,” Heidlebaugh added, “winners of those groups will go to finals where they will be ranked 1-8, and that’s actually placing at state.”

All cast members said they had been to state before but Rugby’s team had never made the final cut.

“In the past year I’ve made it to state. It’s been very close but it’s very discouraging when we look and say, ‘wow, we were almost there,'” said Keenan.

“In basketball, you can clearly see they made a basket but with any type of theater, it’s like all subjective to what the judge thinks,” Duchscher said.

Mention of winning this year had the entire cast bending down to knock on the wooden stage.

“If we win, it’s going to be crazy because we’ve never finaled in the past two-three years,” Heidlebaugh said with a smile.

Hurly and the team said they hoped Rugby fans would travel to Jamestown to see the competition.

“Come and support your theater in Rugby,” Heidlebaugh said.

“Support theater in general,” Linstrom added.

The cast laughed enthusiastically.

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