Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe students captured several titles at the state Drama, Debate, and Forensics meet in Anchorage last weekend (Feb 14-16).

For Sitka, it was a chance for last year’s underclassmen to move into the limelight following the graduation of a strong senior team. For Mt. Edgecumbe, it was a first taste of victory for a growing program.
Listen to iFriendly audio.

Jesse Bartelds and Michael Boose celebrate their state title in Duet Acting. (Kevin Lane Photography)

The state Drama, Debate, and Forensics meet takes over the University of Alaska Anchorage campus for the weekend. Nearly thirty schools participate. They send hundreds of kids to compete.

“Yeah it’s amazing. It’s like the Oscars.”

Donovan Gurule is a senior at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. He helped carry his team to a second-place finish in the small-schools Forensics sweepstakes, by reaching the finals with a solo acting piece called “Lloyd’s Prayer.”

Donovan – “Me, I was a preacher. A black preacher. And I did a duo interp that was a married couple piece. And I did a Reader’s Theater with Doug that was ‘Piggy Pie,’ which is a children’s story.”

Doug – “It’s about a dysfunctional newscaster…”

This is Gurule’s teammate Doug McClenahan.

“…I play an anchor with a real ditzy female co-anchor, and we try to watch all our pieces on a screen but we don’t have video clips, so we act them out.”

“Newscast Live!” also reached the state finals in small schools. As did McClenahan’s Dramatic Interpretation of “Flowers for Algernon,” which took second.

Sitka High senior Jesse Bartelds also competed in Dramatic Interpretation, with a piece about Judy Garland. Many students find their way into drama competition with lighter pieces. Bartelds say DI offers an actor room to work.

“You can either be very sad with it, or just plain dramatic. It offers a lot of variety with what you can do with the piece.”

Bartelds teamed up with Michael Boose to take a state championship in duet acting. Their performance has been honed in monthly regional meets, with hours of practice time on top of that. She’s earned the right to reflect on what has been a long road to the top.

“I remember the first time me and Michael sat down in my house and read over our duet. That was months ago. And it’s crazy now to think, Wow I’m never going to perform those again. But all’s well that ends well, really.”

Her partner, Boose, also tackled a solo performance, selecting a piece that he hoped would give him an edge.

“So my solo is basically an actor forgetting his lines. It’s a hilarious piece. I basically get to stand in front of a judge and say ‘ahh’ and ‘umm.’ Which is really handy when you’re first learning it because if you actually forget a line you can say ‘ahh’ or ‘umm’ until you remember it, and it still works with the piece.”

Sitka High came in third behind Mt. Edgecumbe in the Forensics sweepstakes, but for the second year in a row won the Drama sweepstakes, the Debate sweepstakes, and the overall small schools championship. Bartelds says it was a chance for the younger performers and speakers from last year’s championship team – which won all three sweepstakes and the overall competition – to step out from behind the long shadows of the seniors that dominated the team in 2012.

Mt. Edgecumbe in the not-too-distant past dropped DDF, but later reconsidered and restarted the program a few years ago. Donovan Gurule wishes he had gotten into DDF sooner. Just the practice of settling himself may one day be useful if he ever does make it to the Oscars.

“You take deep breaths before you go in. And you have to be prepared mentally. And you can do that with your teammates. We do games – that really helps.”

Teammate Doug McClenahan has a similar ritual, and the same hard edge.

“Play a lot of games and focus and think about my piece and how it goes. And focus in on that I need to win this judge over if I want to do well.”

KCAW’s Holly Keen contributed to this story.

MEHS State DDF Individual Awards
2nd place – Dramatic Interpretation – Doug McClenahan with “Flowers for Algernon”
3rd place – Solo Acting – Donovan Gurule with “Lloyd’s Prayer”
5th place – Duet Acting – Anneliese Moll & Doug McClenahan with “Newscast Live!”

MEHS State DDF Team Awards
2nd place – Forensics (small schools division) – Mt. Edgecumbe High School

Sitka High State DDF Team Awards
1st place – Drama Sweepstakes – Sitka High School
1st place – Debate Sweepstakes – Sitka High School
3rd place – Forensics Sweepstakes – Sitka High School
1st place – Overall Sweepstakes (small school division) – Sitka High School

Sitka High Individual Awards
1st place – Duet Acting – Jesse Bartelds and Michael Boose
1st place – Mime – Ryan Apathy and Emma Bruhl
3rd place – Reader’s Theater – Emma Bruhl, Ahna Cushing, Celia Lubin
3rd place – Foreign Extemp – Annemarie Pike
4th place (tied) – Public Forum Debate – Annemarie Pike/Celia Lubin and Ryan Apathy/Chaya Pike
Listen to these two teams debate! From a KCAW broadcast on February 11, 2012.
8th place – Speaker Points – Ryan Apathy
3rd place – Speaker Points – Chaya Pike
Command Performance at Finals – Original Oration – Annemarie Pike