The story behind the story

PJCC PIC3 4 col cmyk
Pope John's one-act play cast, crew and coaches are shown with the championship plaque from the D2-4 district competition held at Giltner last week.
PJCC PIC1 3 col cmyk
Directors Alan Reicks and Jessie Reestman display the championship plaque the school won at the district meet in Giltner.

It was 5:45 a.m. as, one by one, the kids loaded the bus prepared to travel to Giltner, Nebraska to compete in the District One Act competition for a chance to make it to state. Most likely, it was due to a lack of sleep, but our young thespians appeared unusually calm while nestled in their bus seats, unaffected by the fact that in a few short hours, they would be taking the stage for possibly the last time this season or in the case of our seven seniors, the last time ever.
Heading out in caravan style, bus driver Eric Schiltmeyer led the way as Alan Reicks and I followed closely behind in the school van carrying a few of the more fragile props and costumes. Bringing up the rear was mother, Anne, and son, Sam Hemenway, pulling an enclosed trailer filled with twenty-plus oversized paper rocks, various cheetah print blankets and furs, platforms, boxes, a couple of palm trees, vines, plants, bones, and five large rock walls. Everything a person could possibly think of to help create the appearance of a Neanderthal’s cave.
The distance to Giltner is just shy of a two-hour drive, allowing the kids a bit more time to rest and Alan and I a little more time to visit about our hopes and fears for the day. One of the biggest worries we discussed was the fear of competing in completely unchartered territory. We had never been to Giltner before. We had never competed against the seven other teams in the district and knew very little about them, and we had never been judged by any of the three judges who would soon be determining our season’s fate. However, what we did know is that in our district, four of the eight teams had previously earned medals for their production.
Arriving on time, we unloaded our equipment and set up camp in our assigned homeroom to begin the hour-long process of hair and make-up. In an assembly line fashion, I busily applied dirt, bushy eyebrows, and color to each cast member. Hairspray fumes and motivating music filled the air. Alan was busy checking the logistics of the stage. As the clock ticked, someone in the room would call out the time remaining before we hit the stage. The kids were focused and ready; before we knew it, it was showtime.
In a matter of minutes, an empty stage was transformed into a cave. Of course, we faced a few obstacles being on a different stage, but nothing we couldn’t adjust to. Then gathering in a circle holding hands, Linus led us in prayer.
The curtains opened, and the show began. I could see all their hours of hard work and commitment coming together for one final performance. I remember smiling in amazement as small adjustments we had recommended just minutes before appeared utterly natural on stage. In that performance, they did everything we had asked; they had fun, entertained, and gave it their best.
Understanding the world of theater, we could only hope that would be enough. It would be several long hours later as six more plays would have to perform, and eighteen more critiques would have to be given. A lot goes through your mind during that time. Scenarios change as each play makes you re-evaluate your own.
The seniors who make up this team were freshmen when Alan and I first tried coaching One Act. We watched them grow in their talents and confidence on the stage. This, too, weighed heavily on our hopes for the chance at state. State had always been their goal.
When the announcement came, we turned and looked at all the kids, so happy knowing that this long-awaited goal had been met.

PJCC PIC2 4 col cmyk
PJCC students receiving outstanding acting awards at Giltner were (l-r): Matthew Dilly, Jack Barlow, Emma Lea Ruterbories, Skyler Meis, Linus Borer and Sam Hemenway. Photo submitted.