Being in any competition is intense. To have 19 Homewood-Flossmoor High School students act on a stage as one unit takes talent, patience, skill and training.
That, and hours of rehearsals led to a third place win for the Group Interpretation team’s presentation of “Jekyll and Hyde” at the Illinois High School Association’s Group Interpretation Finals.
That win came after the H-F production won a superior rating at SWSC Conference, first place at sectionals and advanced to the top three in their preliminary rounds in state competition.
With 19 members, this was a large group, but teacher and director Janine Stroemer said she didn’t want to turn away any seniors who were interested in being part of the production and March competition.
Gianmarco Petrelli, a senior, was glad for that. “It was such an amazing experience, as it was my last H-F theater production,” he said.
Stroemer also knew which students would give the dedication needed to bring her interpretation of the original “Jekyll and Hyde” to a 30-minute play for the stage, and be willing to work with her through rewrites, stage changes and more.
“I know their work ethic, I know what they’re capable of,“ Stroemer said. She worked with many of the team members through speech competitions in the first semester of the school year, but said the group interpretation is “much more difficult” because the variety of movement in the play is different.
Stroemer gives the example of one scene where all 19 cast members had to hold a pose. It took her several tries to figure out how they would hold their arms so that all 19 would be comfortable in a held pose.
Students have about five weeks to learn and perfect the play before the first competition.They rehearse from 4 to 8 p.m. every night, although the teacher admits the production is never final until it’s performed.
“It evolves so much that we change it almost entirely sometimes. Even from the week of sectionals to state I changed something the night before, and when it was finals we changed one more thing,” she said.
Still, Stroemer never panics because she knows how capable the H-F team is. She says they are “professionals by the end.”
Win or lose, the experience of spending time in a project like group interpretation really makes the students a family.
“It doesn’t matter what we do tomorrow in the competition, we’re going to take this experience and it’s going to be with us for the rest of our lives,” she recalls telling the troupe the night before the final event. “You’re looking at your personal growth and then at group interp where you are a family.”
Jessica Ashby, who won the honor of being named to All-Cast for her role as the love interest in the “Jekyll and Hyde” production, said her four years working with Stroemer as a member of the speech team made a difference in her H-F career.
Jessica has done humorous duet acting, dramatic duet acting, original comedy, poetry, dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation and special occasion speaking.
Speech, she says, “teaches you how to write, how to interpret and it just gives you communication skills and people skills that you can use for any major.” She will major in political science at Howard University in Washington.
Senior Taylor Wicks found her passion in speech events. She started as a timid freshman but remembers convincing herself that she needed to stay focused. She would watch students “that I looked up to who were doing really, really great scenes for their season. I knew I wanted to do that some day.”
Wicks has won numerous honors in various speech events. Her favorite event was humorous duet acting, which gave her the chance to write the script as well as perform. She will be attending Illinois State University majoring in acting.
“I have always felt confident to release speech team kids to the world because I’m confident they know how to make whatever it is work,” Stroemer said. “I feel good about letting those kids go.”