Shakesbears ‘dynamite’ at state-qualifying competition

The Kodiak High School Drama Team poses with awards at Service High School in Anchorage.

The Kodiak High School Drama Team made a bold statement at the final state-qualifying Drama, Debate and Forensics tournament of the season, hosted at Anchorage’s Service High School this past weekend.

The Shakesbears, coached by Jared Griffin, took home seven first place awards, five second place awards, three third place awards and two fifth place awards. The Shakesbears swept two events, winning the top three places in the Solo Acting and Humorous Interpretation categories.

In all, the Shakesbears entered nine events and sent finalists to eight events. Senior Felix Lewis placed first in each event he entered.

Fifteen schools from southcentral Alaska were represented at the Service DDF tournament. Kodiak sent a total of 17 pieces to the final round in their events, twice as many as the next closest school, Homer, which sent nine pieces. Kodiak placed third or higher with 15 of their pieces, more than any other school.

Because of the Shakesbears’ success this season, all 14 members of the team will travel to the state competition in multiple events. The State DDF Competition will take place in Juneau on Feb. 13-15. 

Kodiak competitors include Maryssa Abston, Acacia Birbilas, Tayla Eaton, Wetherleigh Griffin, Alli Hartt, Julianna Jones, Serabella Jones, Felix Lewis, Audrey Lonheim, Devina Melin, Derek Rocheleau, Sara Scott, Krista Simpler and Gracie Thomas. 

At the state competition, Shakesbears will also be competing for the coveted spots to represent Alaska at the national competition this summer. Last year, Lewis and Rocheleau competed in Humorous Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation, respectively, at nationals. They will be defending their national bids at state, too, but are facing stiff competition from other Kodiak actors, juniors Birbilas and Hartt.

At the beginning of the season, the Shakesbears were ranked sixth in the state. They are now ranked third in the state, and ranked ninth in their national district, Western Washington. Several Shakesbears members are ranked in the top 10 drama competitors in the state.

Shakesbears club president, senior Wetherleigh Griffin, said that bringing this team to the state competition is “going to be awesome.”

“This is the most dynamic team, with such good chemistry. We have a very diverse spread of talent, with our informational speakers, improvisational actors, and dramatic and monologue performers,” she said. 

Abston added, “Our team is dynamite.”

Top finishers in the state qualifying competition in Solo Acting were Kodiak students Maryssa Abston (first), Julianna Jones (second) and Wetherleigh Griffin (third). In Humorous Interpretation, top finishers were Felix Lewis (first), Acacia Birbilas (second) and Alli Hartt (third). In Dramatic Interpretation, top finishers were Felix Lewis (first), Acacia Birbilas (second) and Tayla Eaton (fifth). In Duo Interpretation, top finishers were Wetherleigh Griffin and Acacia Birbilas (first), and Alli Hartt and Julianna Jones (third). In Duo Acting, top finishers were Maryssa Abston and Wetherleigh Griffin (first). In Original Oratory, the top finisher was Felix Lewis (first). In Extemporaneous Commentary, the top finisher was Sara Scott (second). In Readers Theatre, the Shakesbears teams won first, second and fifth places.

On winning first place in an acting category for the first time, Abston said “it was empowering.”

Some Shakesbears were voted by their fellow competitors to give command performances at the awards ceremony. Lewis and Birbilas performed their Reader’s Theatre “Romeo, You Idiot.” Birbilas and Griffin performed their Duo Interpretation of “For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves.” Hartt performed her Humorous Interpretation of Christopher Durang’s “The Funeral Parlor.” Lewis was nominated by the other schools’ coaches to perform his Original Oratory “Gay Panic Defense.”

“I was extremely honored that they found my piece compelling. I’m glad that they received my message and resonated with it,” Lewis said. 

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