Unlike the title character of their play, Brainerd High School Drama students aren't imagining things: They are going to the Section 8-2A finals of the one-act play competition. It marks the school's first trip to sections in at least 10 years.
"This is a huge accomplishment for the kids," BHS Drama director Audra Albrecht said before a rehearsal Thursday at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. "This is a bunch of kids who have worked super hard and created something out of a script that didn't exist."
BHS took first place Saturday at the subsection competition in Sartell for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," about a man who can't distinguish fantasy from reality.
Walter Mitty (senior Steve Johnson) and his wife (junior Kate Stevenson) go for a drive in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Brainerd High School Drama students rehearsed the play Thursday at Tornstrom Auditorium in preparation for Saturday's one-act play section finals in Alexandria.
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» WE SPOTTED: BHS reaches one-act sections
The students will stage it again at the section finals Saturday in Alexandria. Five other schools will compete and the winner will advance to the state festival Feb. 8-9 in St. Paul.
"This weekend, we're up against some good theater programs," Albrecht said. "At this point, I tell the kids I want their best performance and something that gets people buzzing. Then we've done our job. If we advanced (to state), that would been icing on the cake."
For years, Albrecht had dreamed of staging a one-act version of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," a 1945 short story by American humorist James Thurber. But no one-act play existed. Last fall, Albrecht got permission from Thurber's daughter, Rosemary, to adapt the story, with an addendum: "You've got your work cut out for you."
Senior Sara Swenson tackled the task of adapting the play, which is co-directed by Albrecht and 1996 BHS graduate Jennifer Dens, now a student at the University of Minnesota.
Senior Sara Swenson tackled the task of adapting the play.
"I read the short story a couple times, then I pulled all the dialogue out and looked at how the characters were speaking," Swenson said. "I did some stage movements based on what (Thurber) had, and then added all the extra scenes to make it long enough for a one-act play."
Senior Steve Johnson plays Mitty, whom Swenson describes as "a husband that struggles with the dullness of reality and escapes into these imaginary worlds where he is the lead hero."
Johnson brings a lot of creativity to the role, Swenson said.
"He's got a scarf he turns into a periscope. He can take a regular object and look at it in a completely different way, and that's just the creativity and imagination needed for a role like that."
Swenson shared her theory on why "Walter Mitty" won over the subsection judges.
"It's a completely different take on a one-act in that it has so many scene changes and it's so fast-paced. They also said they appreciated us taking this older story and not changing it too much, but being able to put it on stage."
BHS Drama tentatively plans to stage the play locally after competitions.
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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