Spoiler alert: If you’re a judge for this weekend’s one-act competition in Two Harbors, maybe stop reading this article so that you can’t make any connections between the schools and their shows.
Minnesota State High School League one-act competition rules state that “At all levels before the State Festival, no information shall be given (to the judges) to identify the play with the school.” Judges are given the titles and authors of the shows, but no identifying information about the school putting on the production and students and directors are instructed to not wear any school insignia while on stage.
Two Harbors High School's one-act play focuses on a boy and a dog. The students have been busily preparing to perform this play at the 7A subsection contest Saturday, Jan. 25 at Two Harbors High School.
"The play is about Christopher Boone, a boy on the autism spectrum. It’s about how he sees his world and about him overcoming different challenges in his life," said Two Harbors High School student Noah Smith, who plays the main character Christopher. "The opening scene is when his neighbor’s dog is killed and he has a very strong connection with animals so that hits him pretty hard."
In "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" Christopher goes on a series of adventures to find the truth.
"It’s basically the quest for him to find the killer," Smith said. "And in the process, he realizes he can do anything, even with having autism. It doesn't make him any less than anyone else."
Telling a story with 35-minutes
Normally Christopher's journey spans three acts in the full production of the play, but directors Carl Freund and Keith Hursey have found a version that tells the story within the 35-minute time limit.
"Actually a school in Texas sent me the script that they’d pared down. I reached out to them and said 'Hey, I really enjoyed the book and want to do the play, I see you did it, but I can’t find the one-act script,'" Freund said. "They emailed me back and said there wasn’t a one-act script, they cut it themselves. That seemed like a really daunting task. Two weeks later they sent me the script and just said, 'Pay it forward.'"
Because Smith has so many lines, he's had the script since the start of the school year. The rest of the cast was set by early November. The most challenging part for Smith is trying to remember the scene transitions.
"Because we have that 35-minute limit, we have to make sure we're delivering lines very quickly and transitioning between scenes very quickly," Smith said. "And this play has like 20 scenes."
Which also makes it a challenge for the technical crew who are responsible for taking set pieces on and off the stage, depending on the setting, and ensuring the actors are well lit.
"We have a binder with notes on transitions between lights, and it can really be a challenge," said lighting crew member Isaiah Martin. "We'll be flipping through the binder and a light will go on or off when we're not ready for it. I think we'll get into a rhythm though once the actors find their pace."
Two Harbors is not planning a public performance outside of the competition. Freund encourages those interested in the show to come to the one-act festival and watch all the shows.
"It's one of my favorite days," Freund said. "It's just fun to see what everyone comes up with. And everyone is doing their best."
Saturday’s competition at the Two Harbors High School auditorium will consist of several plays running from 8:30 a.m. until about 2:30 p.m. The order of the plays is unknown at press time.