Duluth Denfeld's One Act theater production looks a quite a bit different than in past years; it's all filmed via a Zoom chat.
"We knew we wouldn't be able to meet in person, so we looked for a script that could be performed online," said Michelle Strand-Juntunen, one of the show's directors. "We had a couple of options picked out and then chose the show based on the students we had audition."
In the end, the directors picked "Exposure" by Vishesh Abeyratne. The play focuses on high school student Jenna, who makes some poor choices at a wild party. Worse yet, a video of her drunken activities has surfaced online, causing a ripple of reactions from her boyfriend, friends and family members.
"It's pretty relatable, since we're living in a digital age, especially right now," said Madeline Watts, who plays Jenna. "There's always that fear that, what if I do something this once, and it ends up online forever? It's a terrifying thing that people can connect with."
The show also came together in a rather short amount of time. Normally, One Act rehearsals begin in early December. Strand-Juntunen and her fellow directors, Antony Ferguson and Keely Waechter, didn't meet until mid-December, cast the show the first week of January and had their first rehearsal as a cast on Jan. 10.
"And our video needs to be submitted on Friday, Jan. 29, at midnight," Ferguson said. "So it's a pretty quick rehearsal period."
Students rehearsed only via online video conferencing. Rather than working to build a set and design lighting and sound programs, students focused on acting within their camera frames and practiced turning their cameras on and off at the appropriate cues.
"We're kind of the guinea pigs for this format," said Paige Kunst, who plays Jeremy. "There's a lot of wiggle-room this way, even though it is missing some of the big traditional One Act things."
One Act theater competitions are different than a regular play production. The rules have strict guidelines about set size and portability. Teams travel to the hosting high school and have a time limit to set up and take down their sets before performing. These rules don't apply this year, but one rule that is still in place is the time limit. All plays must be performed in 35 minutes or less.
"But that's pretty easy for us this year, " Ferguson said. "We just have to submit a video with a timestamp that's less than 35 minutes."
The Minnesota State High School League One Act competition officially ended last weekend. Denfeld's production didn't make it past the sub-section level of competition. But they are offering a chance for the public to watch their performance online. The program is available to rent through Feb. 21 at showtix4u.com; search for "Duluth Public Schools."