Over the last several months, Kenyon-Wanamingo’s High School Theater students have prepared to present “The Crucible,” written by Arthur Miller.
Oxford Dictionary indicates that a “crucible” is a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.
A press release from the play’s Director Randy (Hock) Hockinson states “The Crucible” is a drama in two acts set in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts. Intended for mature audiences, it depicts the hysteria over people accused of being witches and facing execution.
Farmer John Proctor is the central character, played by 10th-grader Elliot Olson; his wife Elizabeth, played by 12th-grader Isabelle Patterson; and his house servant Abigail Williams, played by 11th-grader Abby Dorn, are in a love triangle. Teenage girls from the town accuse a number of people of practicing witchcraft. Trials ensue, and fiery courtroom scenes prevail.
In early January, Hockinson began teaching the cast about three different theater exercises: theater terminology, stage movement and stage presence, which were especially important for this year’s cast. Since some have little training on stage, Hockinson says the theater exercises help the cast learn how to handle themselves on stage, including how to sit and how to move.
“[This year’s cast is] very young. To a lot of them, this is the first time they’ve been in one of my plays,” said Hockinson. “I have really high expectations of them and they’ve really embraced that and are learning how to stand, walk and talk. It’s always a process and it’s fun working with the young people.”
This year cast members range from grades nine to 12, with one 12th-grader, six 11th-graders, eight 10-graders and six ninth-graders.
Eleventh-grader, Clay Stevenson who plays Rev. Parris, says it is “very crucial” to interpret the words in the script the way they were written, adding that the the cast members have to understand the words written on the page in order to correctly convey them to the audience.
While learning more about his character and the play, Stevenson realized that plays don’t always have to be funny to be entertaining. Although there is some humor in this play, it isn’t a “humorous play.” Before his introduction to “The Crucible,” he didn’t know much about the witch trials, but now he has become really interested in learning more about why they happened and how people believed their neighbors were witches.
While this story may have been foreign to some cast members for Hockinson — now in his 20th year of directing high school plays, on top of eight years of directing middle school plays — “The Crucible” brings back memories with a whole different cast. In 2004, Hockinson directed the same show at K-W. He says both casts share similar characteristics, but this year’s cast brings something different to the characters, something he finds “good and refreshing.”
“The kids really bought into the storyline when I told them we were going to be doing it this spring,” said Hockinson. “[There are very] timely messages for the way the world is now, with the power of the accuser and people making up stuff, and people thinking it’s true”
Abby DeGroot, who has both an on-stage role as Tituba and an off-stage role of stage manager, takes on many roles like taking care costume details — including sewing damaged/torn pieces — making sure all props and characters are in the correct places and being able to solve any problem that may arise. Similar to Hockinson, DeGroot believes that the play brings up issues that are relevant today’s.
“It’s a very serious play and it deals with issues people have always had, like in thinking of discrimination because people aren’t like you,” said DeGroot. “I feel like we have that in today’s world, so I feel like it’s good to present it to the public that it’s still happening. It’ll send people home with something to think about.”
Growing into character
For the actresses/actor who play the main characters, the play has been a learning experience for them in more ways than one. Abby Dorn, who plays Abigail Williams, says as a Christian, her character goes against everything she believes. Dorn had to look at the character in a different light, since she is not portraying Abigail to show people what it’s truly like to live a life without God. To be a successful actor/actress, she says it’s important for them to put in the time and energy, and be 100% committed.
Katie Van Epps, who plays Mary Warren — Abigail’s 17-year-old best friend — says Dorn has been doing a “really good job at raising intensities and getting into character.” Van Epps says a huge part of what her and the cast have been doing is putting themselves into character.
“It’s fun to see everyone else grow into their character, even though they are nothing like them,” adds Van Epps. “Playing someone that you’re not is really fun.”
Two main messages Van Epps has found relevant and important while preparing to present “The Crucible,” are owning up to his/her own’s actions and never putting people in boxes.
Kenyon Public Library’s Director, Michelle Otte (who played Elizabeth in Hockinson’s 2004 production) says the play “demonstrates the importance of critical thinking and has stood the test of time because every generation faces the struggle of peer pressure and the desire to fit in. It is so easy to become influenced by something we see on social media or our peers.”
Patterson says since she read “The Crucible” before, reading the story again helped her get a better feel about her character. To overcome the challenge of getting into a character, especially when it’s someone who is nothing like the character, Patterson says she puts herself in the character’s shoes and blocks out her personal life.
Patterson encourages the public to attend one of the productions saying, “We’ve put a lot of hard work into this play, but we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. In the end it’s just a good time to bring people into school like friends, parents, grandparents, and for them to see what we’ve been working on and show off what we do and perform.”
Other students featured in the play are: Corrie Born, Sophia Poquette, Ally Stein, Noah Dorn, Hayden Poquette, Erin Christenson, Sydney Sundin, Louis Breimhurst, Kayla Landry, Natalie Bermudez, Brady Bauer, Lucas Brezina, Arin Kyllo, Flint Stevenson and Danny Van Epps.
Although kindergarten can be an exciting and “a little bit of a scary time” for some children, Kenyon-Wanamingo kindergarten teachers do their best to make the experience for both parents and children.
To ensure the best experience, K-W kindergarten teacher Tanya Short says they hold what’s called kindergarten roundup. But what can parents expect at the round up? Short answered our questions below.
Q: Who is it for?
A: Parents of 2020-21 kindergarten students
Q: What is it about?
A: An evening of information to talk about shuttle/bus routes, supplies needed, general readiness (sleep schedules, school lunches), curriculum and school policies. A tour of the elementary school — including the gym, music and art rooms, all three kindergarten classrooms, the lunchroom and the library will also be provided
Q: When does it take place?
A: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26
Q: Where is it located?
A: The Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary School, located in Wanamingo at 225 Third Ave. S
Q: Where do we meet in the school?
A: Staff will greet parents/families at the door and direct them to the lunchroom, where a general overview of school policies will be given, before parents go into break-out sessions
Q: How long does it last?
A: The meeting typically lasts a minimum of 45 minutes to one hour
Q: Can I bring my children?
A: Yes, free childcare for children aged 33 months and older will be provided
Q: Do I need to bring my soon-to-be kindergarten child to the meeting?
A: No, children are not required to come to the meeting, however if they are comfortable they may go to the free childcare
Q: If my child isn’t required to come, how will they get used to the new area?
A: They are encouraged to attend the Kindergarten Roundup Mini-Session Friday, May 8. The morning will begin with a story, followed by a song, a craft and free playtime in the kindergarten classroom with current kindergarten students. Then they have the opportunity to get used to the lunchroom by eating a snack in the space, followed by a short bus ride before they head home, where they will not only get used to riding a bus if they are unfamiliar with it, but also learn bus expectations
Q: What should I bring to the parents meeting?
A: Any questions you may have from wondering if your child is ready for kindergarten or what they will be doing during the school days, to how big does their backpack need to be or any questions your child may have, like if they need to eat the school lunch, etc.
Q: Do I need to turn in any paperwork the night of the meeting?
A: Since some children won’t be turning 5 until later in the year, you will not be able to turn in the immunizations sheet, but bring as much information (completed forms) as possible to the meeting
Q: What other forms do I need to turn in besides the immunizations?
A: There are six total forms (not including the immunization forms): Student Registration Form to filled out as complete and thoroughly as possible. There’s a Physical Examination Form filled out by the doctor and returned to school, Minnesota Language Survey, New Student Health Form, Health Packet and a copy of your child’s birth certificate (an official copy is not necessary, an xerox copy will work just fine) and School Medication Form (if needed). All forms must be returned to the Elementary Office as soon as they are completed for those unable to bring all to the parent meeting.
Q: What can I do beforehand to prepare my child for kindergarten?
A: Ask them if they have any worries or questions, and bring them to the parent meeting to be addressed. Help them become independent in ways such as letting them help at the table or putting on their own coat and zipping it, even if it may take some extra time.
Q: Who do I talk to for medical concerns?
A: The school nurse, Sara Dahling, will be on-site to answer any medical-related questions parents may have.
Q: Who can I talk to about non-medical concerns?
A: Along with the school nurse, the three kindergarten teachers Megan Sabrowsky, Krista Swanson and Tanya Short, office secretary Cyndi Sturgis and Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary Principal Katy Schuerman will be available to answer any questions you may have .
Q: What bus route will my child ride?
A: Although staff will not be able to tell you what time each child will be picked up at the meeting, they will be able to facilitate who parents need to get in touch with in order to let the bus company know what children need to be riding the bus, as well as their address so they’re added to the route. Once that information is given to the bus company, exact bus routes can be determined and passed along to families.
Q: What if we are new to town and haven’t received a registration packet?
A: Those who have a child who will be 5 years-old on or before Sept. 1, 2020 and have not yet been contacted by the school district are encouraged to call the K-W Elementary School Office at 507-824-2211.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, Kenyon-Wanamingo High School’s graduation rate has remained well above the state’s average for many years.
In 2019, K-W’s four-year graduation rate was 93.7%, with 59 students out of 63 graduating, another three students continued on toward graduate. Statewide, the four-year rate was 83.7%, according to a report released March 5 by MDE.
K-W, High School Principal Matt Ryan says the district’s goal is for every student to have an on-time graduation, something he says they are always working towards.
More specifically for students who haven’t completed their requirements to graduate on time, Ryan says the school focuses on staying in connection with those students and supporting them in anyway possible to help them finish their requirements and get their high school diploma. He recalls multiple instances where that has happened, or where it has taken a little longer for students to finish, though they have done so.
Ryan says school staff connects through periodic check-ins with the counselor. He says one of the challenges students may face is missing out on that connection with their cohort of classmates and as they get older, it gets harder and harder for them to complete the requirements.
“That’s why we put an emphasis on supporting [students] as much as possible while they are still here,” said Ryan. “Once that graduation date passes, it becomes a challenge for those students to complete needed requirements.”
In 2019, 11 special education students gradated, for a 100% six-year graduation rate. Ryan says for students who continue on with special education programming receive a Certificate of Attendance at the graduation ceremony traditionally held in May. Once they finish, they are issued a high school diploma.
Statewide, white students still graduate at a higher rate than students of color, though the gap narrowed this year. African-American students had a 69.9% graduation rate, with Hispanic/Latino students just under 70%, compared to the 88.7% graduation rate of white students.
While graduation rates increased statewide for most racial and ethnic student groups, the graduation rate for American Indian students remains stagnant at 50.8%, compared to 2018’s rate of 51%.
“I’m proud of all of our students, educators and schools for again posting the highest graduation rate on record. Reaching that high school graduation milestone is a pivotal moment on a student’s path to success because it opens up so many different life options,” said Mary Cathryn Ricker, Minnesota education commissioner.
Other disparities exist between students receiving, or not receiving, free/reduced-price meals. For these low-income students across Minnesota, the graduation rate was 71% percent.
Due to K-W’s small population, MDE doesn’t have enough data to calculate racial or economic disparities. Just under 90 percent of K-W’s entire student population is white, and 32 percent receive free/reduced-price meals.
Although K-W’s small size makes the district susceptible to misleading numbers due to the large impact individual students have on that percentage, Ryan says the district’s size can also benefit them. In a smaller district, members of the K-W staff are able to get to know each student, keeping track of where they are at, always being sure to offer help and support when needed.
Over the years, K-W’s graduation rate has remained well-above the state average with a 96.4% in 2014, 95.2% in 2015, 100% in 2016, 97.3% in 2017, 98% in 2018 and 93.7% in 2019. In looking at the past year’s graduation rates, Ryan says the information that is collected brings recognition to the district, and deservedly so.
“These graduation rates have been positive data for our district and that’s a collective effort from our teachers, staff and counselors,” said Ryan. “Everyone has an impact on that graduation rate and supporting our students in an on-time graduation.”