On a cold Saturday afternoon in February, during Epic Sound's first bout, Opsenica's piece began slowly and somberly but picked up speed and intensity toward the middle of the poem when she rattled off the extensive list of drugs she took and side effects she experienced.

Fevers of 105, neutropenia, anemia, panic attacks

Morphine, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Codeine

Vincristine, Doxorubicin, Methotrexate

Pancreatitis, mucasitis

T-Cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

She grabbed her arms and rubbed her torso as she spoke, her voice thick with desperation.

When she finished, the room erupted with screams and claps, and some of her teammates ran to embrace her.

"I got offstage and I wanted to pass out," she said later. "It think it was (my best performance) so far. I put my soul into it."

The judges seemed to agree; her scores, on a scale of 1-10: 9, 9, 9.2, 9.2, 10.

25 days to go

Since winter break, the kids have written more than 10 pieces, totaling about 1,800 words for the group piece. The poem still lacks a clear beginning and end, and the kids are not sure what the four parts should be, let alone who should play them.

In today's practice, Goodman, one of the alumni coaches, led the team members as they analyzed each piece, going line-by-line and word-by-word.

"I was on the team for four years, and we've never waited this long to finish" the group piece, said Gordon, another alumni coach. "I'm not necessarily freaking out because I've seen people put group pieces together (in a couple days), and they've been good. I've seen other teams do it; it's just I've never seen it on this team."

10 days to go

"It's poetry. I know that, (but) poetry is actually the most critical thing in the world, so don't think that it is not critical," Williams said, obviously frustrated. "It's people's lifeblood, so this is important."

All the team members are disheartened by the state of the group piece. They've spent almost two weeks examining each poem, highlighting their favorite parts of each piece, but they haven't nailed down a story.

"With there being seven of us, I think that there were too many perspectives," Harvey said. "Sometimes writing with a prompt is really hard for people to do, and coming together (on one idea) was very, very hard. There were just so many debates on who the characters should be, and I feel that it (complicated the piece) too much."

Williams, a coach and Kenwood teacher, found herself conflicted: She needed to lead the group but also wanted to let the students drive the piece's construction.

"(The piece) is a little unfocused because they are new," she said. "This is the first year that I have had 100 percent new kids. In the past, I've always had at least one experienced kid carry over to the next year. Also, I try not to lead anything because I really think this needs to be student-led, but with everybody being new, this can't be student-led because they don't know what they are doing necessarily yet."