Feb 21, 2022

The Kodiak High School Drama Team, the Shakesbears, successfully defended their state championship in Drama at the ASAA DDF (Drama, Debate, and Forensics) State Tournament last weekend in Anchorage. The Shakesbears had also won the title for Division I schools in 2020 and 2021.

Boasting a full roster of 15 actors and public speakers, and with only one returning veteran, the Shakesbears sent more performances to the final rounds in drama and public speaking (forensics) events, and took home more medals, than any other Division I school. This strong showing led to their Drama state title and their 2nd place win in the Forensics sweepstakes, just behind Ketchikan High School.

Shakesbears coach Jared Griffin said, “I was shaking when they announced that we had won the drama title for the third year in a row. Last year when we won, I was cheering and clapping as loud as I could. But this year, I felt such an immense wave of pride and gratitiude that my body almost froze. And then I remembered that I should probably applaud for my team. It was surreal.”

This is the Shakesbears’ fourth state championship (three in Drama and one in Forensics) since they restarted their competition team four years ago, after a 20-plus-year hiatus.

Since 2001, only two other Division I teams, Thunder Mountain in Juneau and Anchorage’s West High School, have won the state title in Drama three years in a row.

The Shakesbears dominated Division I schools in Drama categories, representing half of all finals’ performances.

Gwen Luera (junior) and Lucky Tiglao (senior) captured 1st place in Duet Acting, an achievement that had escaped the Shakesbears until now. In the Solo Acting category, Kody Witherow (junior) earned 4th place and Roxanne Tena (freshman) earned 6th place. Charlette Burke and MacKenzie Burke (juniors) finished 4th with their Readers Theatre performance, with MacKenzie Burke also placing 3rd with partner Dee Melin (junior) in a heartfelt and hilarious pantomimed performance of a first date gone wrong.

In the Forensics category, Melin, the team’s only in-person tournament veteran, and Mary Grace Enriquez (junior) captured 4th and 7th respectively in the incredibly competitive Dramatic Interpretation (DI) event. But it was Tiglao’s moving performance of Nick Joaquin’s play “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” that earned him 2nd place overall, plus a Command Performance, and a qualifying spot on Alaska’s national team.

Tiglao said, “ I feel honored. It feels good to represent Kodiak.”

Also earning a national qualification was Charlette Burke, who grabbed 1st place in Original Oratory. But the Burkes weren’t done yet, as MacKenzie snatched 3rd place in Extemporaneous Commentary with winning speeches on tennis icon Billie Jean King, The Price is Right, and Trump’s second impeachment.

Rounding out the Shakesbears’ forensics events, Garrett Pittman (sophomore) ended in 6th place in Humorous Interpretation (HI) and freshmen Emmy Counceller and Scout DeVries won 5th place with their Duo Interpretation piece on awkward hugging.

When she found out that she had qualified for finals, DeVries said, “I was in shock. I had already reached my goal of feeling accomplished, and that just added more to it. I’m proud of how far I had come.”

To top off the successful weekend, Kodiak was also honored with the Sportsmanship Award, an honor given to the team that demonstrates volunteerism, poise, and community over the course of the tournament weekend. When not competing, Shakesbears would volunteer as timekeepers for debate rounds, set up meals with tournament administrators, or host card games for their competitors as they waited for judges’ results.

The Shakesbears’ award-winning performances have vaulted them to a 1st place ranking among Alaska’s Division I high schools, and 6th place in their national district. And many Shakesbears are now ranked among the top ten performers and speakers in the state:

  • Melin: 4th in DI
  • Burke: 4th in Oratory
  • Coral Klemzak: 5th in HI
  • Tiglao: 6th in DI
  • Pittman: 7th in HI
  • Enriquez: 8th in DI
  • Luera and C. Burke: 8th in Duo
  • Counceller and DeVries: 10th in Duo
  • Burke: 10th in Extemporaneous

Why have the Shakesbears seen so much success with such a relatively inexperienced team? According to Enriquez, “It’s the connection we all have. It’s amazing how you can feel connected to your team after competing.”

Griffin agreed. “We are a legit, young team, and not to jinx anything, but I can see us competing at this level for at least the next three years.”

The Shakesbears will be presenting several of their award-winning pieces at a Showcase for the public this spring.

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