By Brooke Janson (Correspondent)
Sharon High School Theater Company participated in the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s annual festival. They won state finals on March 24 in Boston against 113 other plays for the first time in 14 years with the production of Scheme of the Driftless Shifter.
Sandra Dennis, the director of Sharon’s festival show, says how the process began. “Festival started in November when we had some basic ideas. It grew as we got into January and February. Winter vacation is usually when it all comes together. Because we rehearsed constantly, people got comfortable with their parts and started to add more and more. It was a long journey through March with the weather being so awful, but we made it and we won!”
Aaron Waite, the technical director of the festival show, says how the show was a challenge. “Scheme could have easily been a disaster. The age of the script and the fact that the show has been done many times made it a hard task to master. We did everything we could to add to the show without changing the original material. By making it our own, we smashed preconceptions that people had about the show.”
Jasper Olsen, a sophomore SHSTC member, describes his experience. “Scheme’s journey was one that was long but fruitful. We worked insanely hard and were pushed to our limits every rehearsal. It helped us work out of our comfort zone and we ended up with an outstanding product.”
Beth Reardon, also a director of festival, says the show was an incredible amount of work for those involved. “We did not think we were going to be able to compete in prelims because Duxbury was underwater. We hosted last minute and managed a victory. Then, we hosted semi-finals the next weekend and managed another victory.”
Jasper also added, “I was a coordinator and had to control the logistics of festival. It is crazy that we were able to pull it off. I wrote an entire script for the MC’s the night before prelims and taught them how to rely the script to the audience the day of. We had to find about 30 volunteers that night so that we could put on the competition the next day.”
Dan Ward, a senior in SHSTC, said that the weather added some nerves because all he wanted to do as an actor was to get into a good mindset and perform exactly as rehearsed. But he was so confident in the set that was created and the people he was there with that he was never nervous about anything going wrong.
Maddy Rothstein, another sophomore SHSTC member, says how the weather affected her experience. “The weather had an impact on all of our companies. Both prelims and semi-finals were both pushed back a day. For prelims, we all had to host at the drop of a hat. It was one of those moments where everybody remembers where they were when they got the phone call the night before. I thought it was a prank. It was insane.”
Reardon said that every level of festival was nerve wracking because no one could predict what other schools were bringing to the table. “In prelims, there were many new schools or schools that did not have a lot of experience so she was very confident going into it. Semi-finals was challenging because Sharon hosted the hardest site in the state. Many thought they would end the day not a winner, because there were some schools there who always win. But Sharon went on stage and owned it and advanced to finals.”
Maddy said, “Each level of competition was different because the people there were continuously getting more serious about theater. At prelims, kids participate as a side activity and have rehearsals a few times a week. At finals, people put everything into it and it is cool to see how rewarding it is for everyone and not just for you,” she said.
“Festival was more of a celebration because my confidence is very low. At semi-finals, I was thinking it was the end. I gave everyone hugs and cried a little bit. Then they announced that we won. I would have been just as happy either way because of all the friends I had made and all the shows that I got to see,” she added.
Dan said that there were pieces of theater from other schools that inspired him. “Some made me cry and some made me laugh. That created an amazing, palpable connection between us. I think our show did the same for other people and that made me really happy.”
Dennis said that festival is both a competition anda celebration. “Theater and the arts are important in schools, and we heard that constantly at finals. There are many schools in Massachusetts that do not have any kind of a theater program. So it is a celebration of the 114 schools that had the ability to participate,” she said.
Waite added, “The competitive elements are a mechanism to drive theater companies to new levels of excellence. But it is also a mass collaboration, as we openly borrow ideas from other schools. We had a show come to us for prelims that was inspired by our original show from last year, Tontlawald.”