The “Thanksgiving Prayer” one-act play that the Princeton High School one-act team is performing this season serves up some food for thought for people in first-world countries.
The play, written by Allen Hahenel, shows how someone visiting a third-world country long enough to see its poverty, may return to a country like the United States with a changed view of its lifestyles and its sometimes petty complaints.
The “Thanksiving Prayer” one-act play unfolds on a minimalist set. Its main feature is a raised platform representing a tree house upon which Morgan, played by Matt Kreft, sits during the whole play. A table, some chairs and a couch make up the rest of the set. The remaining characters are spread out on the stage below. They are Morgan’s dad (Gino Fraboni), Morgan’s mom (Allison Whinery), Uncle George (Josh Malley), Uncle Mike and Grandpa Newman (Schuyller Volkmuth), Morgan’s sister Delia (Tessa Anderson), teenager Mindy (Gabby Foede), Grace (Amanda Rhoades), Diane/Tina (Jaime Malley), Carole (Allie Levandoski), Grammy Newman (Sara Sorenson), Grandma Knowles (Hannah Jenson), Morgan’s brother Jason (Jay Hohlen), and Laura (Megan Moore).
The tech crew consists of C.J. Sedam (stage manager and costumes), Austin Berghuis (lights and sound effects), Brady Winkelman (set construction assistant), and general tech workers Crysta Dopp and Haley Wold.
Laura Berghuis, a veteran director of one-act plays, directs the production.
Morgan had recently returned to the United States after being in India for a three-month mission trip and was now home with his family during the annual Thanksgiving feast. The Thanksgiving activities play out on the stage below Morgan’s perch as family members prepare the dinner and take turns giving a Thanksgiving Day prayer.
Morgan reacts critically to the cooks fretting over small things such as whether the carrots should be cut with a crinkly look or some other design. He recoils when his brother and sister-in-law talk about the stress of working hard to have a big house with an expensive sports car out front.
Morgan also expresses displeasure over various prayers, that the family members give, for being shallow and ignorant of situations in countries like India where so many are not nearly as well off. Morgan is repelled by one of the prayers that “God is on our side” and finds distasteful that one of the family members frequently chugs on a bottle of alcohol. When it is that person’s turn to give a prayer, she says something inappropriate, even drawing rebuke from another family member.
Morgan expresses sadness when he hears someone urging the cooks to hurry up because they are so hungry after not having eaten for two hours. Morgan’s thoughts go back to the 5-year-old girl in India he knew of who had starved to death. He remembers the family of the girl giving thanks that they were allowed to have the girl in their lives for as long as five years.
Morgan, trying to reconcile his feelings, comments that while his childhood home hadn’t moved, something inside him had.
The PHS team performed the play at the Mississippi 8 conference one-act play festival in Chisago Lakes on Saturday, Jan. 18, and will be performing again at subsections in Elk River this Saturday. Performing Jan. 18 were Princeton, Rogers, Hibbing, Chisago Lakes and Cambridge. No places were given at the end, since it was a festival, but two schools – Princeton and Cambridge – were named as having star performances.
Kreft, Jenson, Levandoski, Foede and Malley were named all-conference for acting, and Sedam, Austin Berghuis and Winkelman were named all-conference for tech work.
The public can watch the one-act team perform “Thanksgiving Prayer,” limited to 35 minutes, for free this Friday, Jan. 24, in the PHS Performing Arts Center starting at 7 p.m.