John S. Hagen
From left, Royal Henderson, Eli White, Patrick Henderson, Jennie Humphrey and Zayla Asquith-Heinz perform “The Meaning of Life” readers theater piece at the Chilkat Center on Saturday.

During a jam-packed weekend at the Haines School, Drama, Debate and Forensics competitors shifted to the Chilkat Center for awards and encore, command performances.

Moving the finale from the elementary gym wasn’t due to a lack of space, said coach Gershon Cohen, but a longtime interest in showcasing the DDF students on a stage with “wonderful” acoustics.

“It’s really so much nicer for the kids and the community,” Cohen said.

The Chilkat Center acts ran the same time as a varsity girls’ basketball game, and the Haines Dolphins swim team hosted a meet the same weekend.

“One year, we had a DDF meet, basketball games, and I think the Alcan and a swim meet,” said Tiana Taylor, school activities director. “It happens very frequently in January.”

The DDF meet drew teams from Juneau-Douglas, Ketchikan, Mount Edgecumbe, Sitka and Thunder Mountain.

Haines High School picked up first-place finishes from juniors Royal Henderson and Brennon Whitermore in debate, junior Patrick Henderson in original oratory, and junior Tia Heywood and senior Cassie Galasso in duet acting.

Heywood and Galasso tied a Sitka pair for the top spot and earned a command performance. They acted out a comedic series of impassioned disagreements between two characters writing a story, including whether a woman should live by the “sea” or “gulf.”

Royal Henderson and Whitermore swept their opponents, debating whether birthright citizenship should be abolished.

“I purposefully asked the debate coach from Ketchikan to be one of the judges because I didn’t want the result to be potentially characterized as a ‘home-court thing’ if we won,” Cohen said of the final round.

Patrick Henderson ranked seventh overall in speaker points for debate.

The runner-up readers theater team of the Henderson twins, sophomore Eli White, and freshmen Zayla Asquith-Heinz and Jennie Humphrey closed out the command performances with “The Meaning of Life.”

Assistant coach Tim Shields described the Monty Python piece as “dealing with birth and death” with “very graphic humor.”

Royal Henderson informed the audience, “No DDFers were harmed in the making of this production,” and later did a backward somersault to demonstrate the ill effects for one character.

He was third in extemporaneous speaking, followed by Whitermore in fourth place.

Other top finishes were sophomore Polly Bryant, third, and senior Elena Horner, fourth, in dramatic interpretation; Bryant, third, in solo acting; White, third, in original oratory; and sophomore Isobel Smith and junior Margarette Jones, fourth, in duo interpretation.

White was honored with a command for original oratory and gave a speech on the potential impact of slurs such as “That’s so gay.”

“How many times do you hear that every day?” White asked. “I’ll bet more than once. Why do we say that? Are gays and lesbians evil people who deserve to be discriminated against or are we simply afraid of them, because they’re different from most of us?”

The DDF squad next will prepare for the Feb. 16-18 state competition in Anchorage. Cohen said he expects 13 Haines students to make the trip.

The team is scheduled to host a dessert auction 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Feb. 2) at the school.