“The Exonerated” Takes Home Top Prize
Pine City High School won its second straight Sub-Section One-Act Play Championship on Saturday and will advance to the Section Festival for the third year running. “The Exonerated,” directed by Bradley Mariska, is a true story of four individuals wrongly accused and convicted of murder.
Saturday’s contest was hosted by Pine City for the first time in the school’s history and featured performances from six area schools. Pine City’s performance not only took top honors but two of the three judges gave the local production a perfect score of 100. Second place, and also advancing to Sections, went to Mora High School for their production of “The Forced Marriage” by Moliere and directed by Gary Hirsch. Milaca High School, who advanced to the State Festival a year ago, took third place, followed by Rush City, Zimmerman, and Braham.
The Pine City students have been rehearsing for about seven weeks and also participated in a pair of festivals in St. Cloud and Mora to help prepare them for Sub-Sections. The play is a dramatic and sometimes disturbing tale of flaws in the criminal justice system and its innocent victims. The play is told firsthand by the exonerated themselves, their words drawn from personal interviews, police interrogations, court records, letters, and depositions.
According to Mariska, the cast is the strongest he’s ever had. “The students are doing a phenomenal job with a script that is unbelievably difficult and emotionally taxing. I’m really proud of the kids’ hard work and seriousness in wanting to stretch themselves as actors.”
The judges praised the local students’ skills, saying that their acting portrayed “complete confidence and strength.” Another judge wrote that he found the show “powerful” and “convincing.”
The local thespians now advance to the Section Festival at St. Paul Harding this Saturday, February 6. There will also be one more chance for local audiences to see “The Exonerated” this week. An extra public performance has been added for this Thursday at 8pm in the Elementary Auditorium. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for students or free for anyone with a PCHS Winter Activities Pass. Due to subject matter, the play is not recommended for elementary students.