Shakesbears compete in first tournament of the season
The Kodiak High School Drama, Debate and Forensics (DDF) team, known as the Shakesbears, competed in their first tournament of the 22-23 season in Juneau last weekend. While early results were mixed, nearly every Shakesbear made it to the final round, and a few garnered respectable honors with some jaw-dropping performances.
The tournament was the Region 5 championship competition for southeast Alaska schools, but the Shakesbears, a Region 2 team, were invited to compete because of limited tournament opportunities for KHS and the Shakesbears are currently ranked #1 in Alaska.
Kodiak joined about 100 students from Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Mt. Edgecumb, Sitka, Skagway, and Juneau’s Thunder Mountain, who hosted the tournament.
Despite this being a regional championship tournament and being Kodiak’s first tournament of the season, the Shakesbears were a formidable presence among the best teams in southeast Alaska.
The Shakesbears brought a team of 13 actors and public speakers to Juneau, with seven of them having never competed in a DDF tournament before.
Eleven Shakesbears qualified for the Finals round. Seniors Mary Grace Enriquez and Kody Witherow qualified for Dramatic Interpretation, and WItherow and Garrett Pittman (junior) qualified for Improv Acting. Qualifying for pantomime were Jillian Dorner (sophomore), Dee Melin (senior), Beth Miland (sophomore), and Tatiana Otto (freshman).
And several Shakesbears new to DDF qualified in Readers’ Theatre: Freshman Yuria Frost, Ronan Hinman, Jayla Olson, Tatiana Otto, and Naomi Thomas, plus sophomore Beth Miland.
Witherow and Pittman took first place honors for improv acting. Taking second place for Dramatic Interpretation was Enriquez, performing a piece from Grace Talusan’s memoir “The Body Papers.”
But the highlight of the weekend was Witherow snatching another first place win, in Dramatic Interpretation, performing a piece about the long-term effects of bullying. Witherow’s piece was lauded by coaches and judges, who voted to give him a Command Performance. When Witherow performed his piece in front of the entire tournament on Saturday night, there was no dry eye in the auditorium.
“My heart rate shot up high enough that my tongue went numb. But seeing my team’s faces up there made me feel more at home than anything else in the world,” Witherow said.
After the tournament, the Shakesbears increased their overall 1st place ranking, with Hinman and Witherow increasing their individual rankings.
“We are so far ahead of other Alaska teams in rankings, we will likely end the year as #1 again,” said Jared Griffin, coach.
While this tournament wasn’t Kodiak’s historically best at the start, by the second day, the Shakesbears were earning first, second, and third rankings in numerous events.
“Nerves definitely took hold of many on the team on Friday. Over half of the team had never been to a tournament before, and we were entering southeast’s regional championship, who had already competed at several tournaments before this one. But I was confident in our team’s talent to carry us through and improve on the second day, which they did, dramatically. The new Shakesbears definitely learned a lot, and are doubly prepared for the next one,” Griffin said.
The next tournament, the final regular season tournament, is at Service HS in Anchorage this weekend. This is the Shakesbears’ final opportunity to polish their performances before the state tournament later in February, where they hope to defend their state title in Drama for the third year in a row.
To round out their trip to Juneau, the Shakesbears also took a tour of the state capitol and met with Senate President Gary Stevens to discuss issues important to them, including education funding and rocket launches.