Mustangs win war of words in dramatic style

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 NJDFL state Championship team from Mainland Regional High School. NJDFL state Championship team from Mainland Regional High School. LINWOOD – It is a repeat at Mainland Regional High School, where the Mustangs won back-to-back titles in New Jersey Drama and Forensic League competition. The Mustangs claimed the title by earning the most points at the state championship Feb. 22 at Raritan High School in Hazlet. 

The Looby Cup is back in the trophy case at Mainland to mark the continued commitment of the participants and the strength of the program. Connor Desmond of Linwood was named the league’s 2014 most valuable player.

A team of 30 had 20 members qualify to compete at the state level. They had practiced since fall, according to Phil Hopf, who assists drama teacher and coach Becky Sannino.

The students performed in 12 categories, including acting-dramatic monologue, dramatic pairs, comedy monologue, comedy pairs, improv pairs and musical pairs. In the forensic category were poetry, prose, after-dinner speech, persuasive speaking, impromptu speaking and reader’s theater.
Hopf said many of the students began searching for pieces to perform as soon as the previous season ended.

“We have kids even discussing partnerships for next year on the bus coming home from states. When school starts in September, we normally have a meeting and kids begin to show us some of their ideas. The season normally starts in late October and ends at the end of February,” he said.

Hopf said that over the summer, he starts to pull pieces for students, order new plays and do a lot of reading to get a feel of what pieces could work for students.

As a student, he was part of the team when Mainland joined the league for the 2001-2002 season with Sannino as the coach.
Hopf said the team lost a number of talented members to graduation, but some great new members joined. Also, some of the senior members pushed themselves to a new level, and it paid off for the team, he said.

The Mustangs competed against more than 15 other schools in six regular-season tournaments. To qualify for the state championship, students had to place in the top five in their category. At some of the tournaments, students had to compete with more than 50 other students in the same category.

Hopf said that while it is great to earn accolades and the hardware the students bring home, participation “gives the kids so many amazing qualities when they graduate.”

“They learn skills in public speaking. It helps them become more confident as a performer,” he said.

“Our parents aren’t always honest with us about our performance, but the judges give you great feedback on your critiques, and they really help you grow as an actor. I also think that it allows students to do college-level pieces,” he continued.

In addition, Hopf said there aren’t many rules on content in the league, so students can perform a piece that they wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to in a high school production.

“For the kids that plan on attending college as a theater major, this really allows them to move on from Mainland with a wonderful catalog of pieces that I don’t feel many other high school kids have gotten the chance to play,” he said.
The Mustangs NJDFL team has four captains: seniors Ethan Fischer, Lauren Linn and Flannery Rollins, and junior Connor Desmond.

Winners from Mainland
League MVP ¬– Connor Desmond, title goes to the student who earns the most points for their team at the championships.
Dramatic monologue
Second place – Lauren Linn
Third place – Ethan Fischer
Fifth place – Flannery Rollins
Persuasive speaking
Second place – Connor Desmond
First place-Amy Anderson, state champion
Third place – Connor Desmond
Fifth place – Flannery Rollins
After-dinner speech
First place – Ethan Fischer, state champion
Reader’s theater
Second place – Connor Desmond, Ethan Fischer, Robyn Kimmel, Lauren Linn, Josh Ludwig, Flannery Rollins
Fifth place – Amy Anderson, Paul Keough, Andrew Lavery, Hunter Lutz, Christian Regan
Impromptu speaking
Third place – Ethan Fischer
Dramatic pairs
First place – Amy Anderson and Jake Blumberg, state champions
Second place – Connor Desmond and Flannery Rollins
Fourth place – Abby Clouser and Lauren Linn
Comedy monologue
First place – Connor Desmond, state champion
Fourth place – MariaElena Gambino
Fifth place – Ethan Fischer
Musical pairs
Third place – Connor Desmond and Robyn Kimmel

NJDFL state champions in dramatic pairs is senior Jake Blumberg and sophomore Amy Anderson, both of Linwood. NJDFL state champions in dramatic pairs is senior Jake Blumberg and sophomore Amy Anderson, both of Linwood.

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