Thirty-five minutes. That's the maximum performance time allotted to each competitor in the Minnesota State High School League One-Act Play rulebook.
And in the subsection one-act competition at Fergus Falls on Jan. 24, the cast from Detroit Lakes High School finished their presentation of "Lady Windermere's Fan" in 34 minutes, 20 seconds.
"We had 40 seconds to spare," said Devyn Becker, who plays Lord Darlington in the production.
In other words, they narrowly managed to avoid a time penalty. But the eight-member cast did do well enough to advance to the section competition in Alexandria this past Thursday.
"We finished third out of five schools at subsections," said Gunnar Michon, who plays Lord Windermere.
Despite a smoother presentation on Thursday, Detroit Lakes failed to advance to the state competition this year.
"They definitely did their best performance to date last night," said director Nikki Caulfield on Friday. "Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to move on, but they did really well. They should be proud of themselves!"
Prior to Wednesday's final cast rehearsal, Caulfield set the stage by noting that the play's late-1800s setting was a golden age in world history, known in France as "La Belle Epoque" (translation: "the beautiful era") and in America as the Gilded Age.
It was an era where peace reigned supreme, post-U.S. Civil War and pre-World War I.
As such, Caulfield noted, it was a time when culture and arts flourished -- but also a time when social rules were at their most rigid.
"Ladies were supposed to glide across a room," she explained. "The ideal woman of this time was able to walk without making a sound."
One of the cast members joked that ladies of that era were expected to be "ninjas," and Caulfield concurred with a laugh.
This was the setting for the classic tale by Irish author and poet Oscar Wilde, which Caulfield adapted from a full-length play into the shortened one-act version.
Such adaptations are common in one-act competition, noted assistant director Hannah Bode, though some choose to use more contemporary pieces that were specifically created for the one-act format.
"I really liked the idea of doing some Oscar Wilde," Caulfield said of her reasons for choosing the play. "I wanted us to do something I was familiar with (as opposed to a contemporary piece). I don't mind doing a little cutting."
In addition, doing a play that dealt with the social mores and manners of the late 1800s would fulfill the requirements for both appropriateness of content, and educational value, she added.
Cast of characters
The cast of "Lady Windermere's Fan" included the following DLHS students:
Gunnar Michon -- Lord Windermere
Tianna Schwartz -- Lady Windermere
Katie Anderson -- Mrs. Erlynne
Devyn Becker -- Lord Darlington
Kendra Gilsdorf -- Patty/Lady Plymdale
Kodi Boit -- The Duchess of Berwick
Noah Mercil -- Lord Augustus "Tuppy" Lorton
Matthew Lundstrom -- Cecil Graham
Follow Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.