The students from the Maharishi School impresed the judges at the All-State Speech Festival with their moving stage presence.
by Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, USA, The Review and Maharishi School blog
28 March 2016
After performing well in the state competition, two acts from Maharishi School were invited to perform at the recent All-State Speech Festival in Des Moines, with their entry in the musical theater category coming away with the top award: a Critic's Choice banner.
Also performing at state was a choral reading group.
School senior Anna Unger and sophomore Devan Burke performed an excerpt of "Once," a musical stage adaptation based on the 2007 film of the same name.
The musical is about a Czech woman who encounters an Irish man on a street corner singing about his ex-girlfriend. Feeling depressed, he considers giving up music altogether. However, Unger's character slowly falls in love with him.
During the performance, Ms. Unger and Mr. Burke both spoke and sang in their characters' accents.
The critic who gave them the top honor commended their ability to sing in dialect, and praised Ms. Unger's vocal range. She also was impressed by the emotional depth of the performance, which centered around heart-break and mixed feelings. And she said that the performance had a "Zen-like quality."
Maharishi School Speech Coach Brendan Thomas is more than pleased about the IHSSA prize. "It's an incredible honor to be awarded a banner at the All-State festival: There are no divisions in speech competition, so we are performing alongside groups from the largest schools in the state, schools with incredible music, performance, dance, and choir programs. To have the critic find our piece, from our tiny school, to be what stuck with her all day is a huge accomplishment."
Beyond the surface level effort, though, was something extra that caught the critic's attention. Thomas explains, "The consciousness embodied in the actors brought forward their stage presence. The critic mentioned that our piece created Zen on the stage: She could see the consciousness of our performers up there. The strengthening of consciousness that we focus on at the school really struck home for her, and that was a wonderful vindication of the ideals we work for at MSAE."
As with the stage musical, the two students dressed simply and used a minimalist set, making their award even more impressive compared to the larger ensembles, elaborate costumes, and impressive staging of the other musical theater groups that performed.
The 15 students in the choral reading group offered a performance about immigrants arriving at Ellis Island that featured prose, poetry, and song related to the experience of coming to America for the first time.
The piece was conceived in the context of the students' study of the Syrian refugee crisis and was also notable for the fact that the students performing it were from Estonia, China, India, the UK, and Africa, as well as the U.S.
The award for "Once" is the 18th Critic's Choice award in the school's history since it began competing in 1988, and the first since 2010.
The Maharishi School website commented:
"This is what we all work for here at Maharishi School, that "something extra" that Consciousness-Based education provides for each student. By incorporating meditation into our school day, and by finding the wholeness in each aspect of the curriculum, we strive to help each student become a self-actualized member of the community. Whether it is science or art, computer programming or speech, our dream for each child at Maharishi School is to find themselves, and in turn, their gift."
© Copyright 2016 Maharishi University of Management