Performing a play with five minutes to prepare would make many students weak with nerves.
But a group of four eighth-grade girls from Dolores Middle School thrive on just such a challenge and will be headed to the state competition after a first-place improv performance at the Destination Imagination regional competition.
Destination Imagination is a nationwide organization that helped the Dolores students develop creativity, problem-solving and teamwork, they said.
Teams of up to seven students normally form in the fall and select a project in one of seven categories that range in focus from the sciences to improv theater. All the teams present their projects in a skit during March in Colorado.
But the four regional champs from Dolores didn't start practicing until February, and their success against the five other teams surprised even their coach, Sandi Corbitt.
"When they came to do their performance that day, they got everything right," Corbitt said. Corbitt and Michelle Cochrane, both involved parents, jumped in to coach the team after a teacher who coached in previous years left the school.
The team members, Courtney Corbitt, Zenda Olson, Sarah Cochrane and Tayonna Gallegos studied elements of stage make-up and potential character types to prepare. This year, the improv category emphasized different periods of history, and the students were asked to draw on prior knowledge to give a convincing performance.
Five minutes before the show, the students were told exactly which elements to use and given a central problem for the play.
The team went on to tell the story of monster mascot, played by Corbitt, and a witch, played by Olson, watching a game in a stadium. The witch broke the stadium lights because her team was losing.
A mechanic from the 1960s, played by Cochrane, and a web designer, played by Gallegos, worked together to turn the lights back on.
All four students are theater enthusiasts, who play well off each others' cues on stage and had competed in Destination Imagination before, they said.
Corbitt said she enjoys improv because even the actors don't know exactly what's going to happen on stage.
"You can't really say you messed up," she said.
The team will compete in the tournament April 12.