The Blackduck One-Act Play cast and crew competed in Bagley on Friday, Jan. 26, in the Sub-Section 29A One-Act Play competition, emerging with a third-place finish behind Bagley and Fosston. Those two teams tied for first place, but only one point ahead of BHS.
Win-E-Mac, Red Lake Co. Central and and Clearbrook-Gonvick rounded out the six-show event in Bagley last Friday.
Blackduck’s play: ‘The Amish Project,’ a dramatic character study of the people affected by the Nickel Mines, Pa., shooting in an Amish school in 2006, was excellently performed by Deja Palmer, who played Carol Stuckey, the widow of the killer, trying to come to terms with the tragedy as well as her enduring love for the man she loved and married.
Deja’s performance brought audience members to tears as she immersed herself in the character to give a heartbreaking and believable portrayal of guilt, grief, and finally -- acceptance of the love and forgiveness of the Amish community. Logen Patch played the gunman, Eddie Stuckey, a hauntingly simple, yet disturbed man, who loves his family but battles with a darkness that he can’t hide from, as he watches and dreams of the Amish girls. Anna and Velda Yoder, played beautifully by Kaydre Gullette and Nevaeh Hassel, tell their part of the story, looking back from their deaths at the pain of the gunman, his widow, their father and his best friend who tells their story to the world. Anna depicts the wonder of life after death as she also grieves for her father’s pain and the hatred of those who cannot forgive. Velda focuses on each of the 10 girls who were shot, giving the audience a simple view of how she sees each one -- waiting for their death’s standing before the gunman. Meanwhile, Bill North, portrayed by Nolan Juelson, encourages the audience, seen through the characters’ eyes as members of the press -- to respect the beliefs of the Amish people and allow them to grieve in private, and to appreciate what the Amish are and how they live, instead of focusing on the seamier details of the crime. He talks of his friendship with Aaron Yoder, the father of Anna and Velda, and of his close relationship with both girls since their birth. Through him, we gain an understanding of what was, what is, and what will be -- according to the wishes of the victims’ families. The final characters portray the reactions of the community and of the world to the particular violence of the school shooting. Sherry Local, played by Rachel Roberts, represents the hate, the lack of understanding or forgiveness, and the judgement of the small town -- casting blame on all sides for the tragedy and for her own ultimate unhappiness, that lashes out in cruelty and anger with vicious words and actions -- while America, a young Puerto Rican girl, represents the joy of life and its lessons, strength and endurance, compassion, even amidst uncertainty and the future, through the life she carries inside her. Each character and each actor bring his or her own story to life through the “Project,” to examine the importance of forgiveness and redemption, even in the face of the most horrifying grief.
Bagley’s play “Anatomy of Gray,” received a score of six, as did Fosston’s play, “Orphan Train.” Both received rankings from the three judges of 1, 2, and 3. Blackduck’s “Amish Project” also received a 1 and 2 ranking, but was ranked 4 by one judge, placing them behind Fosston and the home team. The judge who ranked Blackduck first, judged “The Amish Project” to be superior in all aspects of production, including the actors’ physical and vocal characterizations; the effectiveness of lighting, sound, music, costuming, and makeup; the educational value of the production—including the interpretation of the script, the level of challenge of the chosen script, and an effective projection of its meaning; and the overall effectiveness of the ensemble production, repeatedly using and underlining the rating of “exemplary” in her judgement, and with individual compliments for all of the actors as well as on all of the technical elements.
Bagley and Fosston now advance to the Section 8A competition in Roseau, which is set for Saturday, Feb. 3.