St. Michael-Albertville High School’s One Act performers stood out from the rest at this year’s virtual Minnesota State High School League State Festival, where they earned one of just two Star Performance awards given this year. Their performance, Back Cover, centers around a 14- year-old girl’s move to New York City in the wake of her parents’ divorce. The girl, Madison, finds a box of letters from her new apartment’s previous teenage occupant and pieces together how tragedy befell her. To watch the production, click here.
STMA made it to the State Festival by first earning the top score out of 12 teams at their subsections competition. They advanced to sections, which they also won, earning them a place at the State Festival. One Act Director, Joshua Mann, said that six One Act performances received Star Performance awards at last year’s festival, but this year STMA earned one of only two given out.
STMA’s One Act performers include: Kelsey Frederick, Kylie Bjork, Isabelle Waggoner, Kazmer Beaudry, Avery Roisen, Sydney Rogers, Mia Marthaler, Zachariah Becker, Landon Bjork, Mackenzie Barth, Ryan Dornfeld, Emily Brown, and Mya Fryckman.
Virtual From Start to Finish
One of the most surprising things about this year’s One Act success is the fact that the group never once met in person until the high school held a recognition event for their State win. They auditioned and rehearsed virtually 100 percent of the time. Their research for the show even included a private virtual Zoom tour of the 9/11 Museum in New York City.
Even more impressive is how they submitted their performances. Every student was at their own house for the live feed recording, coming in and out of the Zoom call as needed for their role, with no audience from which to feed off of or perform for. Mann said there was no video editing allowed at all.
“It’s literally just you in your bedroom, looking at a computer, and you can’t even see the other students because of how we were recording it,” Mann said. “It was just them, looking at the dot of the camera.”
“I’ve only ever envisioned theater on a stage,” cast member Kelsey Frederick said. “Due to the pandemic, I saw that theater can be transformed into something more than that. I honestly didn’t think, in my entire life, that I’d be part of a state-winning show that was done from my room.”
“Even while performing separately in our own homes, I feel as though this show brought everyone in the cast together, just like any other show,” she added.
Covid Challenges -and Silver Linings
Cast member Sydney Rogers said the Covid restrictions made the group think differently about their performance, such as focusing on facial expression, head and arm movements rather than the full-body acting they are accustomed to. She said they learned a lot more about the technical side of the show than in a typical year, since they had to set up their own mics, lights and computers in specific ways to make the show look its best from their respective homes.
“We owe our success to the commitment of our directors and of our team,” Rogers said. “A virtual show required us to be on our Zoom call for two hours every day for two months in order to achieve the production we did. Everyone on the team was committed to this new type of theater, and committed to the story we wanted to tell.”