Detroit Lakes one-act play team takes third at subsections, advances to section competition

The Detroit Lakes one-act play team will have at least one more chance to perform this season — at the Section 8AA competition in Brainerd this Thursday, Feb. 2.

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The cast and crew of the Detroit Lakes High School one-act play were all smiles as they learned that their presentation of Jiggs Burgess's "The Girl in the White Pinafore" had taken third place at the subsection event and would therefore be advancing to Section 8AA competition in Brainerd this Thursday, Feb. 2.
Contributed / Nikki Caulfield

DETROIT LAKES — It's been a few years since the Detroit Lakes High School one-act play team advanced beyond subsection competition, so it's understandable that they were a little excited to learn that they'd earned a berth at the Section 8AA competition taking place this Thursday, Feb. 2 in Brainerd.

"The kids were over the moon," said one-act play director Nikki Caulfield. "It was awesome to see them so excited."

She noted that the cast had given their best performance to date during the subsection competition, which took place last Thursday, Jan. 26 at Little Falls.

"They blew it out of the water that night," Caulfield said, adding that she and the trio of sound and light technicians in the booth watching the performance were "jumping up and down" with excitement at how well the cast presented their 2023 competition piece, "The Girl in the White Pinafore."

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From right, Ethan Hendrickson, Eden Schmitz and Emma Mitchell in the booth at the Subsection 8AA North one-act play competition in Little Falls on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. The Detroit Lakes High School team took third place in the competition, which means they will advance to the Section 8AA competition in Brainerd this Thursday, Feb. 2.
Contributed / Nikki Caulfield

"It was a really good thing they couldn't see us (in the booth)," she said a little wryly.


The cast also got a bit of a boost from Jiggs Burgess, the playwright who penned their 2023 competition piece, "The Girl in the White Pinafore," whom Caulfield said she had contacted directly in order to condense the play into the competition's required 35-minute format.

"You have to get permission from the playwright if you're cutting things (from the original script)," Caulfield explained, adding that Burgess had basically given her a green light to "cut as necessary."

After he found out that the DLHS team had advanced to section competition, Burgess texted Caulfield on Friday afternoon with a message that read, "I hear congrats are in order! Break legs and steal hearts in the next level of competition. Give your kiddos a hug from me."

Other teams advancing to the section competition from Subsection 8AA North were Alexandria, who took first place, and Little Falls, who placed second. They will compete with teams from Subsection 8AA South, with only the first-place winner advancing to the State One-Act Play Festival competition at St. Catherine University's O'Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul, which takes place next Thursday and Friday, Feb. 9-10.

"For the past 10 years, that (first place winner) has been Alexandria," Caulfield said, adding that they were "very good" this year as well, and would be tough to beat. She said that the Detroit Lakes team would be competing at 8:15 p.m. on Thursday — the last performance of the day.

"I think we drew the toughest spot, but somebody has to go last," she said, adding that she and the one-act team were "super excited" to be performing in Brainerd High School's brand-new auditorium .

"It's beautiful — but huge!" she said, noting that the Brainerd auditorium seats a maximum of 1,200 people — considerably larger than the George Simson Auditorium at Detroit Lakes Middle School, where the team rehearsed for the subsection competition.

A curious item that Caulfield discovered after Thursday's competition: One of the Subsection 8AA South schools advancing to the Section 8AA event, Sartell, is performing the same play this year.


"It happens every once in a while (that two schools choose the same play for competition)," she said. "I'm really curious to see what their interpretation is, versus ours."

This year's selection, "The Girl in the White Pinafore," is a dramatization of a true story. "It’s about the 1937 disaster at the New London, Texas, school where an unchecked gas leak caused the school to explode," Caulfield said. "Based on a true event, with fictional episodes, the play explores the memories and guilt of Superintendent W.C. Shaw in the last days of his life, as he remembers the events that led up to the explosion and the loss of 298 lives."

Shaw is particularly haunted by the memory of the children who died that day, she added — specifically, a 12-year-old girl, named Amelia, who was dressed in a white pinafore.

The cast performing the play at Thursday's competition is as follows:

  • Major Howard: Eden Schmitz
  • W.C. Shaw: Ben Sundby
  • Sam Shaw: Matthew Morrison
  • Mary Davis: Leah Flugel
  • John Davis: Andrew Nunn
  • Nadine Davis: Brenna Dahlen
  • Amelia Davis: Jenna Allen
  • Lem Davis: Abe Perry
  • Lucy Everett: Makalya Baumgartner
  • E.W. Regan: Stewie Annette
  • Eli Cody: Julian Jimenez
  • Mr. Butler/Ned: Lucian Hesbeck
  • Ethel Mayhew: Akira Olp
A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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