It's awards season — and not just for the Oscars and Golden Globes.
The Park High School drama team is hip-deep in rehearsals for "The Diviners." They've entered their adaptation of the play, by Jim Leonard, Jr., into the Minnesota State High School League's one-act play festival.
"I call this our varsity team," co-director Lewis Youngren said. "Everyone who is here wants to be here. They want to do well. They want to be competitive. They want to grow, they want to explore. And that keeps me coming back every year."
The Wolfpack have made it to the state finals 11 times since 1994. Ten of their one-acts earned an “exceptional rating” of two stars from the judges. But they finished second last year in the 3AA section finals when Eagan's production edged them by a one point.
Each play is judged on physical and vocal characterizations, technical elements, educational value and overall effectiveness of ensemble. A strict 35-minute time limit is enforced.
The first stop for "The Diviners" is Woodbury High School. Park will perform in the annual South Washington County School District One-Act Festival, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17. Admission is $5.
East Ridge High School will perform "Medea" by Greek playwright Euripides. Woodbury High School will perform "All By Myself" by Robert Scott.
The showcase gives student casts and crews the chance to spot and correct technical glitches, sluggish pacing, bad blocking or other problems before next week’s opening round of competition.
Set in the Depression of the 1930s, "The Diviners" chronicles the travails of C.C. Showers, a preacher who suffers a personal crisis and leaves his ministry in Kentucky. He drifts to the small town of Zion, Ind. Despite his attempts to blend in, he's welcomed by some of the more religious townspeople as the answer to their prayers. Others view him with suspicion.
"He feels so devoid of purpose, " said Aries LaChapelle, the Park student who plays Showers.
But he finds a purpose when he befriends a disturbed young man named Buddy. Buddy's mother died saving him from drowning when he was 4 years old. The catastrophe left him with brain damage and a pathological fear of water. But he's also mysteriously endowed with the power to find it underground and to predict rain. The town relies on his powers of divination, even as they find themselves embarrassed by this oddball "water witch."
Jenna Coomer, 14, will dress up in male garb for the role. Buddy, she said, is a lost soul whose dowsing powers are bound up with the grief of losing his mother.
"His mom drowned saving him," Coomer said. "I think his big thing with seeking water is to find his mom, because that's the last time they were together."
Park hosts the Section 3AA one-act preliminaries Jan. 22, when they square off against East Ridge, Simley, Woodbury and St. Paul Highland Park high schools. The top two shows advance to 3AA section finals on Jan. 29 at Simley.
The state festival for Class AA is Friday, Feb. 7 at the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
"The Diviners" is co-directed by Quinn Masterson. Student director is Emily Merrill. The cast also includes Jake LeVoir, Olivia Bedard, Madison Omtvedt, Marisa Schwab, Maggie Storm, Michael Hodge, Aliya Freberg, Maggie Maruska, Dom Valladeres and Eli Anderson. A trio of "Zion Musicians" will provide live accompaniment: Liv Degendorfer on violin, Joe Verdick on cello and Evan Villas on guitar.
Crew includes stage manager Grace Sicard and assistant stage managers Kate Kalis and Avery Weston. Lighting is by Treyton Burrell.