Three MFL MarMac events nominated for large group all-state speech

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2023 is the sixth straight year MFL MarMac has qualified for all-state in group improv. It’s the third straight year for seniors Jonah Wille (left) and Will Koether, who, this time, added junior Aedan Whitney. (Photos courtesy of MFL MarMac School)

Carver Blietz-Bentien, Amelya Weigand, Mindy Keehner and Codie Luse make up the radio broadcast team whose “Quiz on WHIZ” production set them apart in a stacked category.

Kaylee Nuehring (left), Clare Grau and Mariah Moser teamed up for group mime, a category the school hadn’t competed in for roughly 10 years.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The MFL MarMac speech program’s run of success continues, with the nomination of three events to large group all-state speech. Teams were nominated in the categories of group improv, group mime and radio broadcast, after receiving straight ones at the state competition.


Large group all-state speech will be held Saturday, Feb. 18, at Iowa State University. All three groups will perform that afternoon.


Group Improv

2023 marks the sixth straight year MFL MarMac has qualified in group improv. It’s the third straight year for seniors Jonah Wille and Will Koether, who, this time, added junior Aedan Whitney to the mix.


The school’s strong tradition in the category is what has made it so successful, according to Wille.


“It gives us motivation to want to put on good skits. Every year, we’ve lost a senior, but we’ve gained somebody else. Being able to have two to three vets in a group at the same time, while training somebody else, really helps the group,” he explained.


“Improv is all about building confidence,” Koether added. “You make a mistake and you own it and keep going. That transition of senior/new person, it builds confidence for the new person because usually they’re a background character. Then, they can step into that main character role more comfortably.”


This year required Wille and Koether to step from background characters into leadership roles.


“We had to find who was going to come up with the ideas. How can we lead now, instead of being in that supporting role,” Wille said.


Whitney was a good fit because he knows Wille and Koether well.


“I know how they act. I know what they’re going to say and when they’re going to say it,” he said. “My connection helped me know how to act with them.”


“It was a good learning experience for him,” shared Wille. “We did preach the fact that, if we don’t make it to all-state, it’s not the end of the world. We strive for that, but if it doesn’t happen, we go out there and put on the best skit we can. A lot of it comes down to draw. With a good improv group like we’ve had, you can do virtually anything with any draw. We had to put ourselves in that mindset. We know what we’re doing, we have a solid backbone, we have characters we can go to, so any draw we get we should be able to put something together.”


The group improv skit changes at each level of competition. The team is given only two minutes to prepare based on what they’ve drawn. This team said it gravitated toward a game show style this year, since it provided structure to the inside of the skit and included developed roles for each person. However, none of the draws at state fit that well.


“So we ended up relying on characters instead of scenarios,” Wille said.


The skit was driving a street sweeper. Wille took on the role of the veteran operator tasked with instructing a trainee, played by Whitney. In a twist to the story, Koether played a rabid raccoon that continuously got in front of the street sweeper.


Koether said the group did well because the middle of the performance was strong.


“When I watch other improvs, the middle will get kind of boring. They’ll have a good beginning and a good end, but the middle part is where you really need to focus. You need to have plot line happening, and that’s something I feel we do really well,” he said. “If you had a story where the character just kind of meanders around and then does something cool at the end, it’s not going to be very interesting.” 


Wille and Koether are excited to return to all-state in their senior season. They stressed the importance of passing down improv skills and techniques so the school tradition can continue.


“There’s a lot behind the scenes that people don’t realize. Developing a beginning, developing a skit in general. You can’t just step in there and do it. You have to know what you’re doing,” Wille said.


“Now, I have to find some people to do improv with me,” added Whitney. “Then, hopefully we can keep this tradition going.”


Radio Broadcast

MFL MarMac’s team of juniors Mindy Keehner, Amelya Weigand and Carver Blietz-Bentien and senior Codie Luse beat out many others in the stacked radio broadcast category to earn an all-state nomination.


“It’s probably one of the most involved events. Every school brings two or three. It’s a huge category,” Weigand explained.


According to Keehner, radio broadcast involves producing a five- to six-minute broadcast centered on any topic. The students write their own script, news pieces and commercials.


“You have fun with it, come up with a theme and base your articles off it,” she said.


Based on success from previous seasons, Weigand and Keehner teamed up as hosts of a radio call-in show titled Quiz on WHIZ. Blietz-Bentien was the newsman, while Luse handled the commercial. They all voiced call-in parts.


“We all had different voices to make it seem like more people were involved,” Weigand said.


Noted Blietz-Bentien, “It adds variety and emotion.”


The group’s voice acting is one aspect that made the radio broadcast successful. They also worked well together, said Luse.


“We had great communication,” she explained.


It helped that they spent hours recording and re-recording to get it just right. 


“Conference is a rough draft. It always comes so fast. Then we’ll re-record some stuff for districts and try to get it all edited and hopefully make it to state. When we make it to state, we’ll re-record the whole thing with a fancy microphone and we’ll have someone help us do the editing to get it ready. It’s the same script, we just refine it,” stated Weigand.


Refining takes into account the feedback judges give at districts, said Blietz-Bentien.


Through this process, the group is able to make the broadcast flow nicely.


“I’ve listened to numerous radios where the transitions are really choppy and it’s hard to listen to when the vocals are all over the place volume wise,” Keehner said. “Once everything flows really nicely, I feel like that’s what gives you a nice radio broadcast.”


“It’s fun to get the reward in the end,” she concluded. “When you put in a lot of work and stay up late editing and writing and refining, it pays off.”


Group Mime

Juniors Clare Grau and Kaylee Nuehring and freshman Mariah Moser teamed up for group mime, a category MFL MarMac hadn’t competed in for around 10 years, the students noted. They gave it a try at the direction of coaches.


Said Grau of the category: “We’re describing a message to our audience without using words. Just our facial reactions and expressions with our hands and body. Instead of memorizing lines, we were memorizing choreography.”


“And there’s music behind it, so we had to edit together pieces of music that went along with what we were doing,” Moser added.


The group’s performance was titled “An Unfortunate Day.” Grau and Moser are struggling through the school day, while Nuehring’s character is doing well. At the end, however, Nuehring receives a phone call with terrible news and she becomes sad.


“Ours has funny humor in it, because stuff goes wrong, but then it was also really impactful,” Moser said.


“I think it was important we had that message at the end. It stuck with our judges,” Grau stated.


With all three group members being self-described talkers, adjusting to the category was difficult.


“You don’t think about it, but it’s really hard to try and tell a story without any sound or mouthing words,” Moser commented. 


“When we were doing the different choreography and actions, we also had to practice without using any props. You have to make it look like you’re doing it. It’s really hard,” noted Nuehring.


Despite that, Grau felt it was easier than memorizing lines.


“It was a cool experience to try out a new event because we’ve never done anything like this. We all worked well together,” she said.

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