Paul Marshall sat on the school library floor, shivering, his voice quavering, one leg stretched out, the other drawn up and gripped in his hand.
"I love you, too. Go," he said, and the Juneau-Douglas High School student began to enact a mountain climber stuck on a ledge as a companion went for help.
As the climber talks to a loved one who isn't there, he tells about Japanese glacier foxes "that look so warm." But some of the foxes are born albinos, and the sun blinds them. For a while the other foxes care for them, but eventually the blind foxes go down the mountain "to where they have to go," to the sea, where they sit motionless and wait for the waves to engulf them.
"Know what I know? I know why the little fox is so still," Marshall said. His affecting presentation won first place in the solo acting competition at the drama, debate and forensics tournament for several Southeast high schools held at JDHS Friday and Saturday.
The tournament, the first of several in Southeast prior to the state meet, drew about 85 students, including 30 from Juneau. Students competed in debates and speaking and acting events.
"Besides mentally challenging, it takes a lot of stamina to do it," said JDHS coach Bill Ralston.
Part of the meet's emphasis is on cooperation and learning, he said. "This is a little bit unique to Southeast in that the first meet is based on more experienced debaters helping to teach novice debaters," Ralston said.
In the drama competition, Kaili Jackson of Sitka enacted part of a Karen Hesse novel about a girl who accidentally caused her mother's death. The character loves her mother but wants more from her, Jackson said. "And I love my mother dearly. Just reading this made me cry. I thought, oh, that would be awful."
Judge Maureen Crosby, a JDHS teacher, told Jackson she had strong facial expressions. But Crosby advised Jackson to be clear about whether her piece was about the accident or the relationships within the family.
Debaters, meanwhile, were arguing about whether the federal government should offer more protection for privacy. Students were free to focus on subtopics such as police search and seizure, or privacy on the Internet.
Juneau students Wesley Brooks and Justin Dorn placed second among experienced debaters.
Ketchikan debaters Andy Dupre and Jamilah Pitchford, the top speaker at the meet, placed third among experienced debaters for their argument that the executive branch should allow gays to serve in the military and punish people who discriminate against them.
Dupre said the "don't ask, don't tell" policy abridges gays' freedom of speech, including their right to disclose their sexuality in court in order to challenge the policy. He called it "a deadly policy that justifies and encourages violence," and cited statistics showing harassment and discharges on the rise.
Juneau students James Voelckers and Christa Fagnant, arguing the negative, said the affirmative's plan wouldn't solve the problem. They quoted gay advocates and others who said a change in society's attitudes, not the law, was needed.
Other events also drew serious topics. Lia Carpeneti of Juneau won third place in oration for a speech about ethnic cleansing. The word cleansing has a hopeful and helpful connotation, but it refers to mass murder, she said.
Carpeneti argued it was in the United States' interest to intervene in places such as Bosnia, citing Europe's willingness to let Hitler accumulate power and overrun Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Doug Honse won the dramatic interpretation category for excerpts from the current school production of "Dracula." Honse and Sarah Elliott won the duo interpretation event. Honse placed second and Erin Walker third in solo acting.
Claire Baldwin and Mike James won the duet acting category. Mattie Levy and Carpeneti were third. Jesse Stringer, Veida Forrest and Dorn swept the first three places in extemporaneous commentary.
Juneau students Elliott, Honse, James, Thomas Bell, Christina Bruce and Elisabeth Wertheimer won the readers theater event.