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The Chadron High School One Act team competed at Western Conference in Sidney on Monday, Nov. 18, bringing home the championship for the second year in a row. In addition, four students — Kennady Stack, Maddie Sandstrom, Alexis Conboy and Katelyn Diehl — earned Outstanding Acting awards. Chadron competed against Scottsbluff, Gering and Alliance. Sidney and Mitchell are also part of the conference, but did not present.

Coach Jill Paopao explained One Act is a Nebraska State Activities Association activity. Students have to perform a 15-30-minute play with a minimum of three characters. “Typically, you best plays are going to be ones that have large casts and run real close to that 30-minute time.”

There are festivals across the state at which the One Act team might compete, though Paopao noted in western Nebraska events are limited because of distance. Western Conference is something new for Chadron, she noted, but it is the same conference for football, basketball volleyball and other activities.

The play chosen this year is Dark Road by Laura Lundgren Smith. Paopao explained the story is set in a World War II Jewish concentration camp. “It’s very dark,” she said. “It centers around two sisters, one who has gone to work for the concentration camp and has become one of the guards, and her sister who is very against this and what the Reich is doing. So you see the cruelty and the brainwashing that was done to convince the guards and the people that the behaviors, injustices and the abuse happening in the concentration camps was justified.”

Adding another layer to the play, the narrative is told in flashback by a journalist interviewing the sister who is about to be hanged for war crimes. “So she’s trying to find the reason to humanize this girl,” Paopao said, “as to why she could do these cruel things to people. It’s not your feel good kind of play.”

As for the students’ approach to the play, she said, “they absolutely love it.” Last spring she had them read two plays and choose one, and they chose Dark Road. She noted older students know what can win at competition, and that huge dramas that appeal to people’s emotion and involve large casts will do the best if executed well.

But performing is only one part of the students’ responsibility. They also have to help in building costumes, props and sets, all of which have to be movable so they can be taken to competition.

When they were announced as Western Conference winners for the second year in a row, Paopao said the students were thrilled. Watching the other three plays, they felt strongly that they would win. “We work really hard at all the little pieces of building great, believable characters.” Teams also get oral critique by the judges, and after the team heard theirs they were confident they had the win. Additionally, Paopao said, they also felt like all the work and nagging on the tiny things really paid off.

Regarding the Outstanding Acting awards, Paopao said at any One Act competition, outstanding actors are recognized. At district and state competitions, there are often Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards given.

Leading up to conference, Paopao said the team had only performed the play for the public Nov. 8 and 9. On the latter date, they were also joined by the Gordon-Rushville team. Having previously taught in Gordon-Rushville, Paopao said she is friends with the directors there and they have worked together in the past. This has allowed both school districts the opportunity for critique of their plays from outside schools.

Paopao noted this year was a bit different, as Gordon-Rushville has gone to a Class C district while Chadron has remained a Class B. “It was really nice,” she said, “to be able to do a critiquing of each other’s plays where we were just really helping each other out.” There was no sense of competition, so no worry as to whether too much help was given.

Paopao said her three leads — Stack, Sandstrom and Conboy — have put in an incredible amount of work. “They have come and worked on their own time, and these are kids that are in a ton of other activities and taking hard academic classes.” She noted the whole cast does very well in balancing One Act with their other responsibilities, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and getting to work. “That makes it much easier when they do that.”

Next, the One Act will compete at district in Sidney on Friday, Dec. 6, performing first. Should they win, they’re headed to state in Norfolk on Friday, Dec. 13.

The cast of Dark Road includes: Stack as Greta, Sandstrom as Daimier, Conboy as Lise, Diehl as The Overseeer, Maddie Pelton as Marga, Kaylee Hughes as Ingrid, Jacee Bates as Raya, Jameson Margetts as Doctor Clauberg/American Guard, Spencer Blundell as Doctor Schumann/American Guard and Curt von Gottberg, Trace White as Col. Seitz, Aidan Dressel as Karl von Eberstein, Thomas Kaus as Albert Forster, Forest Parks as Hans Frank, Dallas Kelso as Therese, Ayla Kephart as Helena, Cassie Nesheim as Marian, Naomie Elliott as Zlata, Malia Burwell as Anna, Leah Weber as Hannah, Mayzie Murdock as Josefine, Emma Peters as Erika, Emma Witte as Charlotte, Hailey Hallsted as Lydia, Maralee Rischling as Mina and Kelton Burbach as Levi.

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