CLINTON —Eleven Clinton High School thespians will leave it all on the stage today as they put on the performance of a lifetime — or at least of their high school careers — at the Iowa High School Speech Association All-State Festival.
Not since the early 2000s has the Clinton High School drama department earned an All-State victory at the IHSSA festival, but director Josh Hollister is hoping his third year will be the lucky charm.
"This is the third year we've done the one-act with the speech and debate club," Hollister said. "The first year we made it to the state level but didn't win, and the second year we didn't even make it to state. So, we're hoping this year we can take it all the way."
And, with a group of high school students ranging in age and experience performing the one-act "Take 5," they are feeling confident they will be a reckoning force in Ames.
Leading that brigade of novice and veteran actors in "Take 5" are Clinton High School seniors Jeffery Rickerl and Bethany Tegeler, neither of which are strangers to the spotlight.
As seniors, and experienced actors, they are feeling the pressure to be the driving force behind "Take 5's" run for the state title, and are feeling self-assured that they can deliver.
"I definitely feel the pressure but I think I've felt like that since my sophomore year," Rickerl said. "I've been the lead a lot so it's something I'm used to."
As Alex in the one-act play, which explores what would happen in a live performance setting if everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, such as performing on a set that isn't completed or using a backstage crew member to replace an actor who doesn't show up, Rickerl delivers a performance of utter confusion and annoyance during the comedic, train wreck.
Because the play is designed to portray everything going wrong, first-time performer Jacob Simpson is feeling that will benefit the group during the state-wide competition.
"The makeup of the show is really good," Simpson said. "If things happen that we don't plan or if something goes wrong, it fits with the show so we just go with it."
As a former crew member, who plays a crew member forced into the show when an actor doesn't arrive, Simpson said he relates to his character and is glad to play this role in his first supporting spot in a live production.
His fellow cast member Dan Fullick agrees the direction of the play allows for an ample amount of improvisation, which he says makes it all the more entertaining. But his favorite part of being in the one-act and taking on the competition at the All-State festival is joining the long list of accomplished performers who have earned a berth at the exclusive competition.
The competition is so exclusive in fact, that the Clinton High School group is one of eight groups selected out of 190 that entered the competitive performance circuit back in January.
Not only were they required to receive 'I' ratings, the highest score possible in one-act judging, for both of their competition performances in Goose Lake and Marion, but the group then had to be nominated out of the entire catalogue of 'I'-rated ensembles.
"During judging they get really critical so it's tough to get that 'I' rating," Hollister said. "Plus, to get through 189 schools and be nominated for All-State is pretty spectacular."
If they do take the top spot out of the eight competing for the one-act All-State competition, not only will the group and school earn bragging rights for the victory, but also will be awarded individual honors and a commemorative flag similar to state athletic conferences.
While he's not sure what the award process will be like, Hollister is just eager for the chance for his group to perform and proud of where they have come in this long process.
"This has just been such a whirlwind and the kids have been amazing in dealing with it all," said Hollister, adding with a laugh, "I'm not sure what happens if we win, we'll probably get the key to the state or something like that. We'll be the champions of all of Iowa."