Unique take on TV news earns students All State nomination for group speech

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Chelbe Feuerhelm (left), Reagan Butikofer, Sierra Wiebensohn, Coltin Ball, Lizzie Herzmann and Keagan Smerud (not pictured) were part of the MFL MarMac TV news team that earned straight ones at the state group speech contest. The group’s performance also earned them an All State nomination. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

MFL MarMac students Chelbe Feuerhelm, Reagan Butikofer, Sierra Wiebensohn, Coltin Ball, Lizzie Herzmann and Keagan Smerud recently earned straight ones for their TV news performance at the state group speech contest. Last week, they discovered that effort had also earned them an All State nomination, a rare honor for speech participants.

Like a typical newscast, the group’s portrayal featured several real-life news stories, the weather and even a commercial break. The big difference? It was based on an airplane, during a flight from Chicago to Colorado Springs.

Herzmann and Smerud pulled double duty as both the pilots and newscasters for YFLY News, sharing three airplane-related news stories straight from the cockpit.

Feuerhelm and Wiebensohn were the flight attendants, offering advice for passengers along with acting in the commercial, an advertisement for their YFLY Airline travel mug.

Butikofer and Ball, meanwhile, served as passengers, with Ball, a meteorologist, breaking out to do the weather.

“I tried to make it interesting, rather than just saying news stories,” said Feuerhelm, who wrote the entire script for the nearly 8.5-minute performance in three or four hours. “There’s a relationship, an argument and then we brought in the passengers.”

She got the idea from teacher Angie Killian, who, along with Diane Fisk, coaches the school’s speech participants.

“They were things that actually happened,” Killian said of the featured news stories, “but with [the group’s] own twist.”

The other group members commended Feuerhelm’s efforts.

“She did a good job basing [the characters] off our personalities,” Herzmann said.

Some of the humorous moments came when flight attendant Wiebensohn flirted with Smerud, the pilot, prompting an argument with fellow pilot Herzmann.

“It was interesting to see how each of us modified it to our own personalities,” added Wiebensohn. “Chelbe and I, as flight attendants, had a lot of fun.”

Butikofer portrayed a nervous flyer, seeking reassurance from her fellow passenger, Ball.

“He tried to calm me down,” remarked Butikofer, who said she’d been on planes before, making the experience fun to reenact.

For this group speech category, all performances are pre-recorded ahead of time, then shown at competition.

The group shot their whole video on a smartphone, in front of a green screen.

“We broke it down into different scenes,” Feuerhelm explained.

Those who weren’t in front of the camera at the time, took over the filming.

“It was extremely time-consuming,” shared Herzmann. “Keagan and I were in here hours upon hours recording and re-recording.”

Ball edited the final product, inserting realistic images of airplane seats and a cockpit. Out the window, moving clouds could even be seen.

The students also dressed the part, making it even more realistic.

“It was hard to find outfits in such a short time,” Feuerhelm admitted.

Judging by the comments at state, Wiebensohn said the group felt good about its chances for being nominated to All State.

“The judges don’t say anything usually,” said Herzmann, “but they were laughing and making comments.”

Feuerhelm said both she and Wiebensohn cried when they heard the group received straight ones.

The All State nomination was a cool way to cap off her high school career, said Wiebensohn, who’s a senior along with Feuerhelm, Ball and Butikofer.

“This was my first time doing speech, so it was really cool,” added Butikofer.

MFL MarMac was also one of the smaller schools competing at the state contest, so the group was proud to rank among teams from places like Decorah and Dubuque.

“We’re pretty low budget,” Ball said with a smirk.

Looking around Killian’s classroom at the high school, Feuerhelm added, “You’re looking at the studio we shot it in.”


Group speech success continues

The TV news team wasn’t the only MFL MarMac group to find success at the state contest. Freshmen Riley Whitney and Rose Grau also earned straight ones for their musical theater performance.

The two sang a tune called “Stepsisters Lament” from the musical Cinderella, an idea Whitney developed after performing in MFL MarMac’s production of Cinderella this fall.

“I really enjoyed the song,” said Whitney, “and I thought we could pull it off.”

“It was really aggressive,” Grau added. “You really had to get into character.”

Earning an overall one at the state contest were Max Koeller, Anjela Waterman, Hope McGlaughlin and Miqenzie Gilberts, who participated in the improvisation category.

“It’s live and spontaneous,” Gilberts explained. “You don’t get a script.”

Gilberts said the group is given a topic, then has two minutes to think about what they’re going to do. The performance itself is five minutes. In this case, the group had to act out wearing earrings for the first time.

It’s not something you can really practice for, she added.

“You mostly practice to get a feel for each other,” McGlaughlin said.

Also receiving an overall one at the competition were the musical theater group of Koeller, Waterman, Micah Decker and Shelby Martin.

Kira Reick, Destiny Berns and Smerud picked up an overall two rating in radio broadcasting. Their performance was a holiday look-back, said Berns, so it featured news stories with a Christmas theme.

Speech coach Angie Killian praised all the groups’ efforts.

“When you have good speaking skills and creative ideas, it goes well,” she said.

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