GOESSEL—Dominic Englestad of Newton stood out with his shock of red hair during practice Friday morning onstage at Goessel High School. He also stood out because he’s one of the main characters and is great at improv, which he was doing.
GHS students rehearsed the play “Swedish Rumspringa,” loosely based on the book “Swede” by Carol Duerksen and Maynard Knepp of Hillsboro. It’s the story of an exchange student from Sweden who attends a small Kansas high school and his unexpected friendship with an Amish grandfather Jonas Bontrager. Duerksen is a co-director, along with DJ Freeman and Doris Unruh.
“None of us have directed a play before, but DJ has experience in acting and as a forensics coach,” Duerksen said in a news release. “We call ourselves ‘3 crazy ladies and a play.'”
Rumspringa, or “running around” is a term used by the Amish to describe the time in adolescence Amish experience starting at about age 16, according to amishamerica.com.
During the play’s classroom scene, Englestad broke out into some improv, telling his “teacher” he needed to return to Sweden during the weekend to fetch homework he left there.
“Jet lag,” he said.
The audience comprised of play participants let loose with laughter. One could tell they hadn’t heard those lines before.
The Swede’s name is Henrik, Englestad said.
“This is my second play,” he said. “Also was in two musicals. Last year, I was Charlie Brown in our production.”
There are things Englestad enjoys about being in high school productions.
“I just like being able to express myself,” he said. “I like improv. I do a lot of improv.”
That includes doing that in forensics and going to state for it.
The GHS senior said he hadn’t taken part in theater before high school and that he was homeschooled from grades kindergarten through eighth grade.
Englestad can relate to his character.
“During the first half, I’m supposed to be awkward and rowdy,” he said. “That was kind of me during my freshman year.”
The senior doesn’t want to pursue acting as a career, however. He plans to attend Kansas State University and major in mechanical engineering.
“I don’t think I’d like it for a career,” he said about theater. “I like it because I get to do it, not because I have to do it.”
About the play
“Swedish Rumspringa” will be presented at 7 p.m., Nov. 13 and 2 p.m., Nov. 14, at Goessel High School.
General admission tickets are $5 and available by calling the school at 620-367-2242, picking them up at the school or at the door.
“Another theme in the play is some of the lessons taught and learned in the social studies class, based on the teaching of the much-loved Goessel High School teacher Wes Schmidt-Tieszen who is now retired,” Duerksen said in a news release. “To this day, exchange students who have gone on to get their degrees in their home countries still say that ‘Mr. S-T’ was their best teacher ever.”
In addition, four GHS exchange students are taking part in the play. Another element includes the involvement of the students.
“One scene was written entirely based on a discussion with the American and exchange students as they compare the differences in their countries and cultures,” Duerksen said in the news release.
She said one of the big advantages of writing the play is they can do what they want to it.
“It has been so much fun to see the students add to the script, ad lib and make suggestions for improvements,” she said. “Thanks to their involvement, this play will have people cracking up, as well as maybe even tearing up. We’ll see.”