One act, endless talent: Perham middle school students hit the stage

Prairie Wind Middle School students recently performed their one-act plays for 2023: "The Liberty Well" by Anthony L. Mariani and "Cheating Death" by Kamron Klitgaard.

Kylie Lamb, playing Death, intimidates Bob, played by Landon Roy, as he hides behind his papers in the one-act play, "Cheating Death."
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
Sam, played by Kelly Wagenman, comforts a crying Death, played by Kylie Lamb, in "Cheating Death."
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Theater can be fun for anyone of any age. That is, at least, according to the young thespians who recently performed in Prairie Wind Middle School's one-act plays: "The Liberty Well" by Anthony L. Mariani and "Cheating Death" by Kamron Klitgaard. Students showed off their acting skills during their performances to classmates and community members alike on Thursday, May 18.

Though the middle school one-act play performance didn't happen for several years, it returned right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, performances were not open to the public during the first year of the play's return. With the 2023 school year coming to a close, middle school one-act performers now have three years of public performances under their belts.

"These guys have done a great job putting it all together," said Dan Christenson, fifth grade science teacher and middle school one-act play director. "I think the future of drama in Perham is great … (My family and I) just truly love the arts. We just really love live theater. And I wanted to instill this in some other people, and that's why I thought, let's get one-act play going again."

(From left) Sue, played by ShyAnn Monnens (Kenna Johnson's understudy), and Ann, played by Sienna Dolen, both raise their hands in annoyance during "Cheating Death."
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

So, Prairie Wind Middle School students got together this spring to practice and perform their 2023 one-act plays. Live theater, of course, isn't without its complications. Ever multitalented, a number of the students involved were also in robotics, sports and speech. It was sometimes a struggle to get everyone together for practice, but that didn't stop students from having the time of their lives. During practice, on the day of the performances, students were laughing and joking side by side with one another.

"(Performing) has been really fun," said eighth grade student Samantha Rethemeier, who's loved acting ever since she was little. "I really enjoyed doing it, especially when there's people like me who also like doing it. I've had a lot of good times with my friends here."


Several other students along with Rethmeier starred in this year's plays: Landon Roy, Sienna Dolen, Kelly Wagenman, Addy Ostlund, Kenna Johnson and Kylie Lamb. Unfortunately, on performance day, Kenna Johnson was sick and unable to take to the stage. Luckily, brave thespian ShyAnn Monnens volunteered to be Johnson's understudy at the last minute and performed without having attended any rehearsals. Despite this last-minute change, performances went smoothly.

(From left) Samantha Rethemeier, Sienna Dolen, ShyAnn Monnens (Kenna Johnson's understudy) and Kelly Wagenman stand together as their characters confront Death in the one-act play "Cheating Death."
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

"I do have experience with theater before; I was here in sixth grade and did a play," Monnens said, explaining why she was able to seamlessly step in for Johnson. "I didn't do it this year because I have really bad anxiety, so I was just like, 'How about no.' But it's a lot of fun. I should have joined (at) the beginning of the year."

Monnens ended up having a lot of fun stepping in and getting to act alongside her friends. Wagenman also found herself regretting not doing a previous play when they put on "Seussical" several years ago. In sixth grade, she participated in the middle school one-act, and she's been in love with it ever since. Performing in front of others looked scary, but it interested her.

Dolen also enjoys trying out new things that may make her a little uncomfortable, and she's learned a lot about how to be a little more comfortable in front of an audience. "This is my first year doing (the one-act)," she said. "It was actually my idea, and then I dragged my other friends into it. It just seemed fun, and I like forcing myself in situations where I'm not the most comfortable. So I'm getting used to it."

Ostlund has also learned a lot since she started participating in the one-act in sixth grade. It's helped her learn how to open up, interact with others, express her emotions and speak in front of others. She plans to continue performing in high school because of the joy it brings her.

Rory, played by Addy Ostlund (right), demands clarity from Death as Deb, played by Samantha Rethemeier (left), stands in the background.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Lamb also expressed how much participating in theater has helped her learn how to express herself. In addition to learning, she's also having fun with people her own age. In her own words, they help each other be better people and performers. Not only do these actors make each other happy, but they also make those who watch their performances happy.

"I like performing in front of people and making other people happy and showing people theater can be fun," said Roy, a wide smile on his face.

More performances are to come from Prairie Wind Middle School students, and Christenson only hopes to see theater in the district grow. He even hopes to one day see a drama department available at the high school.


"You have to start somewhere," he said.

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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