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West De Pere One-Act headed to state

Two students on stage

The Inexplicable Chaos Factor of Mia Gregory

By Janelle Fisher

City Pages Editor

While local athletes have been gearing up for state tournaments this month, local theater students have been getting into character for a contest of their own — One-Act Play.

“We prepare a one-act play, which typically means less than 40 minutes, and we bring all of our stuff and we perform at a school,” Maggie Gertz, One-Act advisor at West De Pere High School, said. “And we don’t get ranked against other schools. We just get advanced or stopped at that point. And then at state, there’s a couple different awards that we can get. Critic’s Choice is the big one — that’s like ‘we think your show was really outstanding’ — and then there’s individual acting awards, stage crew awards, a directing award and ensemble awards.”

This year, West De Pere students have been working hard on their production of The Inexplicable Chaos Factor of Mia Gregory — a play by Emily Hageman following the story of Liv, a brilliant teenage mathematician, as she struggles to understand her best friend Mia.

Students on stage

Kendra Smits, who plays the role of Liv, said the show encompasses some powerful themes that she and other students are able to relate to.

“It’s about this girl who is really conflicted with herself,” she said. “She just wants to do the ‘right thing,’ but she doesn’t really know what that is. It’s a story about her lifetime and how she’s looking back on it and she has flashbacks of decisions she’s made in the moment that she kind of regrets later on and she wishes she’d handled situations differently… She realizes she can’t change what has already happened, but she can learn from her mistakes and try and be a better person from that… I feel like it’s a very relatable show — especially to high schoolers.”

Smits, who has been involved in other productions throughout her time at West De Pere High School, said that the contest setting definitely adds another element to performing.

“With a musical, it’s kind of like an ‘I’m doing this for fun. I should have fun with it. I should get a group of friends to try out and we all get your parts’ type of thing. At the end of the day, you want to perform for your audience and you want to wow them, but there’s not that pressure of moving onto the next step.”

With One-Act, though, Smits said the feedback and opportunity to advance to the next level adds a competitive component to performing — even if schools aren’t directly competing with each other, but rather themselves.

“I definitely like the feedback,” she said. “It gives me a drive to do more and it pushes me to be better. When you put that competition aspect into anything, I feel like I’m a very competitive person. You get the mindset where you want to improve. You want to get better and you want to impress these people who are critiquing you and looking at you.”

After making it through the district and sectional level of contest, the West De Pere One-Act cast has earned itself a ticket to the state festival.

Students on stage

“I’m still in shock,” she said. “I’m a senior and I’ve been in the cast for One-Act all four years of my high school career and we’ve always gotten stopped. So just getting to state, it was difficult. You have to have the right people. The right things had to happen at the right time. Even if we didn’t put on a perfect performance, just to know that we’re going to state is absolutely crazy. It’s such a great accomplishment and I’m so thankful that I got to have a role in being able to help my team move forward and say I was a part of that. It’s really cool.”

Smits said it truly took the effort of the whole cast to bring the show together and get them to state.

“I think it’s a huge group effort,” she said. “I’m a bigger role in this so I’m on stage the whole time. I don’t really see what the ensemble characters are doing behind me, but when I watched our film back for the first time, it really added so much to the show — the little details that they do that I never picked up on because I never saw it. That really wowed me and it brought the show to a whole new level.”

Find out more about One-Act and the state festival at wisdaa.org/state-theatre.

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