The first night of the Kodiak High School Shakesbears’ participation in the state Drama, Debate and Forensics championships didn’t exactly go as planned. 

The drama team was competing virtually, performing in front of a screen for judges and other teams scattered all around the state last Thursday night. 

Then the power went out all over town. 

“It was like, ‘Oh gosh, the worst possible thing that could possibly happen just happened,’” head coach Jared Griffin said. 

Thankfully, he said, the wifi at the school kicked back into gear. But the lights did not, leaving several performers to act by the light of their teammates' cell phone flashlights. 

Complicating matters even further was that Griffin also had to go to hospital with a kidney stone. 

But it didn’t matter much. The Shakesbears still placed first in the Drama category, only the third school in Alaska history to win back-to-back drama titles at the competition. The team has, in the past, won another Drama championship and a Forensics title, another team category. 

More than 30 other schools competed in the championships, which were held from Feb. 11 to 13. 

“I’m super proud of the team. That they were able to defend their state title is pretty cool. That hasn’t happened a lot,” Griffin said. 

“For them to be repeat champions is a big deal.” 

In the various events, the team won a state championship in Readers Theatre, with Acacia Birbilas, Maryssa Abston, Krista Simpler, Alli Hartt and BJ Jones competing. 

Abston reached the national qualifiers in Dramatic Interpretation and Birbilas and Hartt did the same in Duo Interpretation. Simpler qualified as a first alternate. Abston also won in Command Performance Selection. 

The Shakesbears entered five events and competed in the finals in each event, sending more actors to the finals than any other school in those events.

New members of the Shakesbears team also performed well. Freshman Garrett Pittman received rave reviews from judges for his depiction of Thor in a Reader’s Theatre piece, and sophomore Mary Grace Enriquez qualified for the finals in Solo Acting, a rarity for a first-time competitor.

The 2021 Shakesbears consists of Maryssa Abston (senior), Acacia Birbilas (senior), Mary Grace Enriquez (sophomore), Alli Hartt (senior), BJ Jones (senior), Audrey Lonheim (junior), Devina Melin (sophomore), Garrett Pittman (freshman), Krista Simpler (senior) and Gracie Thomas (senior).

Abston, Hartt and Birbilas will all go on to compete in the national competition this summer. Griffin said the team will put on a tune-up show for the Kodiak community in the late spring. 

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