It's been not only a busy but also a controversial time for the Payson High School Drama Department.
The weekend of Jan. 25, drama teacher John Siler's students attended not one, but two competitions one in Snowflake and one in Apache Junction. Out of four entries, the local thespians earned two superior ratings.
"I'm One," a one-act play performed at the 1A, 2A, 3A state competition in Snowflake Jan. 25, earned one of the superiors despite its controversial subject matter. Featuring a cast of 8, the play by former Payson resident Vern Harden focuses on teen gang violence.
"Our students showed a lot of courage on a very controversial issue," Siler said. "They also helped with the dialog and had a lot of rich insights into the show."
The second competition, the Central Arizona Acting Festival, took place in Apache Junction Saturday.
"We came home Friday evening and unloaded 'I'm One.' "Then we loaded up another one act play, 'Hooray for Adam Spelvin, He is Perfect,'" Siler said.
Student director Billy Chester, a PHS sophomore, said 'Adam Spelvin' is also controversial.
"It's about a 20-year-old whose parents are over-obsessive and think he is perfect," Chester said. "Throughout the play, he is crying out for help, wanting his parents to take him for who he is."
Other PHS entries at the Apache Junction competition included a monologue by Sammy Jo Strothman and a duet acting scene by Randy Perham and Rebecca Ross. The latter, featuring a scene from Anton Chekhov's "The Boor," also earned a superior rating.
"The play is about the classic battle of the sexes," Siler said, "and they did one of the major conflict scenes."
The PHS Drama Department is not afraid to take chances, Siler said.
"If it's an issue that needs to be dealt with, that needs to be discussed, then we will continue to do so as long as I am here," he said. "If we think an issue needs to be brought before the public that is dangerous and needs to be confronted, we are going to do it."
The competitions provide an outstanding environment for drama students.
"It has definitely been a busy time, but we want our kids to have as many experiences like these as they can," he said. "There's nothing like having several drama students in one place at the same time making you feel good about your efforts, being generally very supportive and understanding and being totally forgiving."
Siler hopes to reprise the four performances for the Payson public later in the year as a fund-raiser for the drama students' annual trip to London.