An Appalachian coal mine has collapsed.

Three men are buried in the mine, and loved ones in the lives of each of those men want to know what is happening to rescue them.

The dialogue between the miners, their relatives and the mine foreman tell the story of “Digging Up the Boys,” a play by Laura Lundgren Smith.

That play will be presented by the cast and crew of Redwood Valley High School as part of the annual One-Act play contest. The local troupe will present its production this coming Saturday (Jan. 26) during the Sub-Section 9 One-Act play event, which is being held in Redwood Falls in the Estebo Performing Arts Center at Redwood Valley schools. 

According to Katy Eckes, who is in her second year as the One-Act play director at RVHS, the local students started rehearsals at the beginning of December.

The cast includes Deon Estebo, Brian Bucholz, Leo Steffl, Julian Nelson-Hernandez, Lexy Nelson, Abby Gilk, Justene Larsen and Audrey Munshower. The crew members are Grant Liebl and Amos Krause.

Eckes said it was past One-Act director Joni Nieland who showed the script of “Digging Up the Boys” to her, adding it was one she had considered having students perform.

Eckes called it a period piece that addresses the struggles of the coal mining industry and the concept of “owing one’s soul to the company store.”

This year’s cast and crew is a good mix of veterans with lots of stage experience and those who are taking on major stage roles for the first time.

Justene Larsen, who is participating in her third play as a high-school student, including her second One-Act play, said she enjoys being part of the theater environment.

“I have been doing theater since Kindergarten,” said Larsen, adding she enjoys the chance to become someone else when she is on the stage.

For Larsen, being part of the One-Act program adds that competitive aspect one doesn’t experience in doing the fall school production. That, she added, means working hard to be very polished and professional in one’s presentation.

Julian Nelson-Hernandez is taking the stage as a high-school performer for the first time.

However that doesn’t mean he does not come with theatrical experience, as he participated in the RAT performance of “High School Musical” this past summer.

“I have always wanted to get involved in theater,” said Nelson-Hernandez.

He added it just never seemed to fit into his schedule.

So, when the opportunity arose to get involved in the One-Act play this year he took the chance.

For Nelson-Hernandez, acting is an art form he enjoys, although he said it has been a challenge to take on a bigger role in the One-Act play.

Nelson-Hernandez plays the role of the foreman, and he said the personality of that character is a polar opposite of who he is.

Larsen said her biggest goal is not to forget any of her lines, adding it would be nice to advance to the Section contest.

The One-Act play contest is unique in that it is timed. Each performance can’t exceed 35 minutes. The One-Act play also limits the number of students in the cast and crew to 20.

A performance for friends and family is taking place this Friday (Jan. 25) at 4 p.m. in the PAC, and earlier that day the student body at RVHS will have a chance to watch the One-Act play.

Both Larsen and Nelson-Hernandez agreed that this year’s play is darker in its tone, and Larsen added she appreciates the chance to broaden her horizons in theater by doing a play that has more of a dramatic theme.

The One-Act festival is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. this coming Saturday, with RVHS joined by BOLD, Lakeview, Red Rock Central, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Wabasso and Westbrook-Walnut Grove.

The top two performances advance to the Section contest, which is being held Feb. 2 in Redwood Falls. Admission for the day is $7 for adults and $5 for students. The public is invited to attend this day of theater in Redwood Falls.