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Paynesville Press - Jan. 29, 2003

Students to perform one-act play

By Michael Jacobson

For the first time in 20 years, a group of students from Paynesville Area High School are presenting a one-act play.

Ten students will present a public performance of their play, "Spirit of the Seneca," on Thursday night in the school auditorium. Then they will compete in subsection competition on Saturday.

Cast of Spirit of the Seneca - submitted photo The 20-minute public performance of the play on Thursday will start at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Following the performance, hot cider, coffee, and cookies will be served in the lobby (with a freewill offering for the refreshments).

For the first time in decades, a group of students from Paynesville Area High School will perform a one-act play in competition. The cast will give a public performance on Thursday night in tht auditorium and then will compete at subsections on Saturday. Cast members are: (front) Peter Schreifels, Sami Tierney, Lindsey Pelton, and Susie Swyter; (back) Courtney Colbert, Jenn Terres, Amanda Halvorson, coach Joan Nevitt, and Jeremiah Gleitz. Not pictured are Hannah Felling and Callie Frieler.

On Saturday, the drama group will travel to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School to compete at subsections against seven other schools. In addition to Paynesville and HL-W-W, competing schools will be ACGC, BBE, EV-W, Kimball, Maple Lake, and NL-S. The top two schools will advance to sections.

According to school staff, the last time PAHS participated in the one-act play competition was in 1982 and 1983.

Junior Sami Tierney, who portrays a storyteller in the play, pushed for the opportunity to do a one-act play this year. A veteran of school drama productions, she had heard from her friends in other schools that the one-act play competition is a lot of fun. "I really enjoy any acting experience I can get," explained Tierney, "so I jumped on it."

Junior Sami Tierney - photo by Michael Jacobson

PAHS One-Act Play

When: Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: School Auditorium
Subsections: Saturday
Cast of Characters
Spirit of the Seneca
Hannah Felling
Narrator: Peter Schreifels
Storyteller: Sami Tierney
Sly Fox: Courtney Colbert
Little Burnt Face: Jenn Terres
Sisters: Susie Swyter and Amanda Halvorson
Village Maiden: Lindsey Pelton
Director: Joan Nevitt
Music: Callie Frieler
Sound and Lights: Jeremiah Gleitz

Storyteller Sami Tierney recalls Native American tales by a makeshift campfire during the one-act play, "Stories of the Seneca."

Joan Nevitt, the high school media center specialist, volunteered to be the director. While having no directing experience, Nevitt did watch one-act plays and attend state competitions while her daughter was attending Minnewaska Area High School.

This fall, Nevitt wrote the screenplay for "Spirit of the Seneca" based on the story by Milbre Burch. Interested cast members met last fall to see the script and started to rehearse in January.

Of the cast, most have participated in school drama productions before; only two have not. Most are also members of the high school speech team, also coached by Nevitt. The play, according to Nevitt, "is a portrayal of a young woman who is brought up listening to words of wisdom within her Native American culture. After living in the city, she goes home where she realizes that the ways of her people are more than the truth...they are the heartbeat of her soul."

The one-act play lasts about 20 minutes, under the maximum time of 35 minutes. One-act plays also focus more on the acting than typical school drama productions, with less reliance on costumes and scenery, said Nevitt. For "Spirit of the Seneca," the characters, except for the narrators, will simply be costumed in black. Props are minimal. "The main goal is to involve the audience, in one way or another, and to get your point across," said Nevitt.

So while they will depend on the strength of their acting on stage, they will be helped in achieving a dramatic effect by music and lighting. Junior Callie Frieler will play the flute and drums for Native American music. Sophomore Jeremiah Gleitz, who was helped by parent Ian Pelton, will be the technician for the sound and lights, coordinating the spotlights illuminating the characters during the play.

Doing a one-act play is different from a full-scale drama production, the students agreed. Most are looking forward to the competition and to seeing plays by the other schools. "I'm excited," said senior Susie Swyter, "because I think it'll be a new experience, being able to perform and watch others perform."

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