One Act earns All State in Dubuque | Six teams finish with straight 1’s in large group contest

Six teams came home with straight 1’s, and two earned 2’s at the state large group speech contest in Dubuque on Feb. 8. The One Act earned an All State rating. Pictured at left are Malina Amjadi and Emma DeGroote.

Speech students dominated in Dubuque on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the State Large Group Contest. Fifteen students rode up together at 5:45 Saturday morning, eager to perform the pieces they’d been working on for months. 

Large groups, consisting of events like choral reading, ensemble acting, group improvisation, one act play, group mime and many others advance through multiple levels of competition. Groups start with Districts in January, after which select groups are chosen to move on to State. The students on the bus that Saturday morning had all qualified to perform again at the State Large Group Contest, with hopes of being picked to perform at All-State on Feb. 22 in Ames. 

Students earn ranks from IV to I. The best score is a I, demonstrating an excellent and well executed performance. Earning a II means the performance was well done, but minor flaws detracted from the overall effect. III’s are much more uncommon, but often indicated an unfinished or complete meltdown of the piece. IV’s are rarely given out, but indicate a rule violation.

Cedar Falls walked away with six out of eight teams earning I’s, with two teams earning twos and the one act play “Where Does All The Good Go?” being chosen to perform at All State.

This devised play, “Where Does All The Good Go?,” has been the effort of 15 students for months now. The entire play was written from scratch in a collaboration between the students and speech director Danae Dieken. 

After an audition process for the one act, the cast gathered and made vision boards of their characters. They began to start pulling inspiration on how their characters would move, talk and interact with others. 

Script and character inspiration, Dieken notes, came from both modern shows like “The Good Place,” and also older classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Then, the real writing process began. Students would push their desks together and start talking, as comments and jokes started to weave themselves into a script. 

After rehearsing since Thanksgiving, the one act cast and seven other large groups were ready to perform. Cedar Falls students joined 80 other schools in the Dubuque Senior gym, the home base for the day. 

Above is Nathan Smith, Issac Morlan, Ahmad Madlock and Josh Mitchell.

But instead of the gym feeling tense and competitive, Dieken described it as the “most supportive form of chaos I have ever experienced. As you walk through, try not to step on the people sleeping as some had even a longer drive than us, there are line dances, group singalongs to ‘Country Roads,’ and this year we have ended every day with a Cedar Falls led dance party as we wait for our final results to be posted.” But that doesn’t mean these students aren’t serious about their performances. “When you exit the gym it becomes all business as there are performances happening all around the school; they actually have ‘shush-ers’ whose entire job is to walk around and tell people to stop talking so close to performance centers,” Dieken said. “The sharp contrast from gym to hallway is one of the most unique things about [speech] competitions.”

While all the groups walked away with either I or II ratings from their judges, the real prize comes from the lessons learned in collaboration and self exploration. Dieken said she urges students to look past three judges’ opinions on a performance, and instead asks them to “reframe success in speech as what they learn, how they treat each other and if they were honest. Honesty and acting might seem incongruous, but just like great writing, great acting can make the people who take it in feel a little more seen, a little less alone.” 

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