Prior Lake High School's theater program will take its one-act play production to the Minnesota State High School League's state festival today for the first time in 22 years.
A group of around 20 students since late last year have been perfecting and performing "The Wedding," a half-hour comedy by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov concerning a chaotic wedding reception.
They qualified for the state festival at St. Catherine University after competing in school theater tournaments around the area, production technical director and high school auditorium supervisor Dave Tuma said.
The task has required learning and building skills on-stage and off, several students said, not limited to pulling off a Russian accent, procuring 18th-century Russian classical music and improvising when a chair breaks amid the play's many scuffles.
"It is so much fun to perform," said senior Ryan Fuller, who portrays the boisterous, wine-enthusiast father of the bride. He and other cast members weren't sure at first what to make of the kind of Russian play that relies on many white wigs, he said, but it's clicked with them and with audiences.
Senior Megan McCarthy, who plays a drama-stirring character with feelings for the bride and another wedding guest, said the group was shocked to make it to the section tournament and then to state, especially because comedies often struggle. It's exciting to show Prior Lake is a theater competitor, she added.
The state festival, meanwhile, isn't strictly a competition with schools outscoring others, Tuma said. Instead they receive ratings from judges on aspects like projection and how challenging the play is, essentially pushing to do the best job possible.
"We've gone as far as we can go," he said.
The group put on a public dress rehearsal Wednesday afternoon. Cast members trilled and chattered to warm up their voices as they set up a long table and other props over a few minutes — they have just 10 minutes at the state festival to ready a bare stage before performing.
"We try and stay as consistent as possible," whether it's lighting, performance time or stage placement, said senior Emily Nicholas, the production's stage manager.
Then the play commenced, beginning with a terse conversation between groom and mother-in-law and ending with a tabletop brawl.