Shiner one-act play headed to state (video)
May 11, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.
SHINER - The quest for a one-act play state championship has taken a dramatic turn at Shiner High School.
Known for several years for its successful comedic productions, the school's crew and cast took on the challenge of "The Giver," a drama based on the Newberry Award winning book by Lois Lowry.
Play co-director Michelle Winkenwerder said the change to a drama was an intentional move.
"A lot of the plays you see at the state competition are beyond heavy drama. At state, you see a lot of jaw-dropping, eye-opening shows on stage," said Winkenwerder, who also doubles as the school's cross country coach.
"We're really conservative here, and this is about as deep as we want to get without pushing the envelope too much in Shiner," she said.
The only senior girl in the cast, Emmalie Berkovsky, said she was wary of trying a drama at first.
"We always do comedies. A lot of people didn't want to do a serious play, thinking it might not be as fun. I was nervous about it," Emmalie said. "It's definitely been as fun. Maybe more challenging. It's so different. I didn't know how it was going to work. I don't know how Coach Wink pulled it together, but she did."
The play is set in the future where every person, at age 12, is assigned a role in the community. But when the character Jonas turns 12, he is chosen for special training - to receive and keep the memories of the community, an assignment that turns out to be an enlightening experience for Jonas.
Sophomore Sarah Reese portrays Jonas.
"I love the rush of being on stage," said Sarah, who found playing a boy an easy role to get into. "I love giving people something to think about. I want them to think about the play afterward."
Michael Lawrence plays The Giver.
"It has been really interesting. I enjoy the competition, and I enjoy getting to be someone else for 45 minutes," said Michael, a junior who also takes part in football, track and prose and poetry competitions.
Michael is one of more than a half dozen of the cast and crew who have had siblings take part in one-act plays in the past and advance to state.
"My brother went to state three times and my sister once," Michael said. "So this is surreal. I'm sure I'll get the full effect when I get there."
That tradition of success coincides with Winkenwerder's arrival at the school.
Under her direction, Shiner High School one-act plays have advanced from zone or district meets every year since the 1998-99 school year, including six trips to state.
This year's class A performance is scheduled for May 22 at the 400-seat McCullough Theatre on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Shiner was first runner-up at state in 2002 and last made the trek to state in 2008.
Emmalie is ecstatic to be part of the cast headed back to state in Austin starting May 20.
"This is my fourth year, and I am finally going to state," she said. "I'm so excited I didn't miss out on it. I had heard about going to state. I knew about it and wanted it for myself. I'm so happy."
Another common bond among cast and crew is how close-knit they became throughout the year.
"I'm a senior, but this is my first year doing one-act play," said Chase Schroeder, a member of the ensemble in the play. "It's the most fun I've had with anything I've ever done in school. This group of people has allowed me to grow close to them like another family. It's pretty amazing."
Freshman Emily Gamez echoed Chase's thoughts.
"They are like my second family. It's fun," she said. "I'm real excited to go to state because my brother (Joey Gamez) went to state as a freshman. I wasn't going to join because I didn't think I'd be into it. But I don't know where I'd be without one-act play."
Emmalie said she loves how diverse the group is.
"We are all involved in a lot of other things," she said. "One-act play brings us all together. We all manage to fit together and work together."
Although heavy on drama, play performances weren't without their comedic moments.
At the district meet at the Performing Arts Center in Victoria, The Giver (Michael Lawrence) nearly gave his all.
"I almost swallowed my mustache," he said.
"My mustache was a bit loose, I was in the starvation seen and suddenly I was like (makes gagging sound). It was very appropriate for the starvation scene. It really improved my character. I think we should do this more often.
"I thought it was the end of my life. I thought I was going to die on stage."
But Michael recovered, and the Shiner one-act play tradition of excellence also lives on.