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WFHS Theatre wins second state one-act crown

Izzy Dahl, Abigail Brown, Ross Wicklund, Trevor Johnson and Taylor Flakker sing a musical number during their performance of “Shipwrecked!” Submitted photo1 / 2
Austin Lamb performs a scene in “Shipwrecked!” on April 8 at North Dakota State University. Submitted photo2 / 2

The West Fargo High School Theatre department recently had one of its best weeks, culminating on April 8 with their second consecutive state championship in the one-act play competition at North Dakota State University.

“It was an awesome day for West Fargo Theatre,” Director Adam Pankow said. “The comments we got from the judges and the other competitors affirmed that we are doing something right.”

The cast of nine finished first out of 11 schools for their performance of “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself)” by Donald Margulies.

“The show was really about specificity,” senior cast member Izzy Dahl said. “Everything we did and said had to be consistent and had to hit its mark just right. It was nice to know that the work we put in was appreciated, and that people felt the energy that I was feeling on the stage.”

In the one-act play competition, schools are allotted 35 minutes for their performance – along with 10 minutes for set-up and take-down – and judges then critique them based on multiple criteria.  

“We worked for having a lot of energy and physicality in specific moments that were very rehearsed and consistent,” Pankow said. “This cast worked really well together to make their performance as polished and professional as possible, and they were fantastic.”

Along with the overall victory for West Fargo, seniors Taylor Flakker and Austin Lamb each earned superior performance awards, although Flakker believes anyone in the cast could have won the award.

“It was a very ensemble work,” Flakker said. “Everything had to flow very well, and we had to know where everyone else was going, along with ourselves. I have gotten to work with this wonderful ensemble, and every time we do this show. ... I see all of them giving 110 percent. It’s so wonderful to be in a group like that.”

Along with the one-act play competition, students were also invited to participate in musical theater events, where West Fargo junior Natalie Shea took first in the solo event, while Morgan Senger and Alyssa Manning finished first in the duet event.

“(The musical theater events) are really independent things,” Pankow said. “I maybe spent a half-hour with each of them. They worked hard on their own and with the accompanist. That is a credit to how consistent they are as artists and the knowledge they have to put that together on their own.”

While the students participate for their love of the theater, they find out a bit more about themselves at the competition.

“The judges’ comments – even though it is for the entire show and everyone involved – kind of help you think about what you need to improve on,” senior Abigail Brown said. “You can use their critiques and turn them on you, and then you can learn more about yourself. It is just a good environment to be in.”

Prior to last year, the North Dakota High School Association did not hold a state competition for the one-act play, instead hosting a “festival” where schools gathered to perform but no awards were given. According to Pankow, having won the state title twice – and therefore being the only school in the state to ever win the title – gives him and his students a confidence boost going into the future.

“It’s nice to have some sort of acknowledgement,” Pankow said. “Not to throw a pity party, but it seems the arts don’t necessarily get the recognition that they could. To have something very tangible to bring back … does really say something about the program we have been able to build here.”