Performance in the Round wins second place with “Dogfight”

The applause dies down and the room is tense as Mrs. Susan Jaffe, English teacher and Forensics coach clocks her stopwatch. “Fourteen minutes and 30 seconds,” Jaffe announces as her students break out of their solemn act and erupt in cheers.

Students involved in Performance in the Round have been working nonstop to nail the timing of their play, “Dogfight,” for one and a half weeks, since the script was adapted and the roles were cast.

PIR is a cut-activity inside Central’s Forensics team that performs 15-minute plays against teams from other schools. Unlike regular plays, however, the students are required to utilize a circular “stage,” making sure they connect with audience members (including judges) all around the circle in Shakespearian style.

This past weekend, the team won second place in the regional competition with their play “Dogfight,” which tells the story of Eddie (played by Jackson Dockery, junior), a young marine who plays a cruel joke on Rose (played by Nicole Labun, junior), a naïve, young girl, on his last night out before he leaves for Vietnam as part of a bet amongst his fellow servicemen to see who can bring the ugliest date or “dog” out dancing.

“The show is perfect for a high school production because it captures that moment when we first realize that we have the power to hurt or heal someone else with our words,” Jaffe said. “It’s a story about cruelty and growing up. I think young people can relate.”

Jaffe adapted the short play, which was originally a movie and an off-broadway production, for PIR as soon as she heard the team would once again enter the regional tournament after a five-year break.

“Good PIRs are shows that are believable for young actors, have moments of humor and drama, have easy plot lines that can be explained quickly, and can be very visual,” Jaffe said. “Dogfight fit the bill!”

For Jaffe and her husband, adapting the play involved a long process of rewriting the original script, but she admits she could not have done it without the students.

“The actors also play a huge role in the adaptation because they’ll give us feedback on the lines and directions to be natural for them,” Jaffe said.

Jaffe plucked her cast from students in the Forensics team. After auditions, 13 students of all classes made the cut.

“We chose students we believed could do a few things: portray characters in an honest and believable fashion, be team players in a part of an ensemble, tell a story to an audience in clear voices, and grow from the experience,” Jaffe said.

After the cast was decided, the team hit the ground running. They spent hours after school rewriting scripts, assembling props and costumes, discussing the tone of each scene, and blocking the choreography in a circular fashion.

“[The cast is] an amazingly talented group of kids that work so hard for us,” Jaffe said. “The rehearsal hours have been exhausting, but they are always there, ready, with a smile on their faces. It’s all worth it when you see the end product and feel so proud of the students.”

PIR’s second place performance of “Dogfight” in Saturday’s regional competition landed them a chance to compete again in sectionals, and Jaffe hopes the team can make it all the way to the state tournament in Peoria.

“I’m very confident in our students and the story,” Jaffe said. “In the end, though, I don’t care about how we rank or what medals we place. I am so proud of the work we did together as an ensemble.”