Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Randles at helm for year's 1st DDF meet


Haines High’s new Drama, Debate and Forensics coach Amanda Randles is trying to learn the ropes of the position and train up her students before the team’s debut competition at home this weekend.

Haines is hosting the first DDF meet of the season Friday and Saturday at the school. Seven schools – two from Juneau, two from Sitka, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Haines – will attend. About 100 youths are expected to participate.

Randles takes the reins of the DDF operation from former coach Gershon Cohen. Though she has never coached DDF, Randles said her experience as an actor and director for a semi-professional theater company in Talkeetna gives her an edge in the drama department.

“I’ve been reading the manuals as best I can and getting lots of help from previous coaches. I’m asking the kids a lot of questions as I go along, too,” she said.

This year’s team has 11 members, but only four will be participating this weekend because of a conflicting cross-country event.

Veteran DDF participant and senior Eli White has emerged as a team leader, Randles said. White has been acting as a “bit of a coach to the others” and is helping organize the tournament.

White said he’s looking forward to working with Randles during his last year on the team. “So far she has been doing a great job and she’s good to work with,” he said.

White, along with sophomore Dylan Grimes, freshman Rachel Haas, and junior Yael Paes (a foreign exchange student from Belgium), will be performing a Reader’s Theater piece excerpted from The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” which Randles directed in Talkeetna.

The piece, essentially “a play within a play,” is a shortened version of “Romeo and Juliet” with comedic injections, White said.

Haas and Paes will participate in the pantomime competition, and Paes also will perform a dramatic interpretation of a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 comedy-drama film “The Great Dictator.”

Randles said working with Paes has been especially satisfying as a coach, as English is Paes’ second language and overcoming her accent has been a unique challenge. “She chose it herself and I’ve been really impressed with how far she has taken it,” Randles said.

All Haines participants except White will also compete in extemporaneous communication, where students are given 20 minutes to compose their thoughts on a random topic before delivering a polished speech.

“That’s one of the most rewarding ones, because when you nail it, you knock it out of the park,” Randles said.

Former coach Cohen held training for the competition’s judges Wednesday night and said he is happy to offer his help and experiences to Randles as he is able. Cohen said if he had one piece of advice for Randles, it would be to trust the instincts of the students.

“There are times you have to say, ‘This is the right way to go on this,’ or ‘This is the wrong way to go,’ but the kids are incredibly creative and far more responsible than we give them credit for,” he said.

Cohen said aside from White’s continued prowess in debate, he expects junior Zayla Asquith-Heinz to further develop her drama skills. Sophomore Neil Little also showed “a remarkable amount of poise and talent both in acting and singing during his first year,” a gift Cohen hopes will be fostered.

The competition begins Friday at 3:30 p.m. with orientation and informal workshops, including a mock debate tournament.

The Reader’s Theater competition will take place Friday evening, and the rest of the tournament will be held Saturday, starting 8 a.m.

This tournament won’t have a command performance – where competition winners typically get to showcase their routines for the community.