The 2013 Maine Drama Festival will mount nine regional competitions Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, around the state. More than 2,500 high school students from 77 high schools will compete in the 82nd annual festival, offering one-act plays that range from original to classic, slapstick to tragedy.

Seven local schools are in the mix this year, and all but one will be at the Midcoast Regional at Oceanside High School East, 400 Broadway in Rockland. Oceanside has played host for a number of years and will handle the logistics of harboring nine troupes of enthusiastic thespians. Another local school that often plays host is Camden Hills Regional High School, which will have the Class A State Finals two weeks later.

The competition’s classes are based on school size. This year, the cutoff is 550; schools with that many students or more compete in Class A, and those with fewer compete in Class B. Regionals generally offer an equal mix, which is why there is usually one Midcoast high school that travels farther afield — this year, it is Belfast Area High School, which will compete at the Eastern Regional at Mount Desert High School.

Directors have to be an adult employed by the school, although student direction is allowed with a designated supervisory staff person. Performers must be eligible students in grades nine through 12, although schools with fewer than 80 students may use eighth graders — locally, North Haven Community School often makes use of this provision. All aspects of the technical performance also must be student-run. The only time adults or former students can be involved performance night is during the five-minute set up and strike. And yes, that five minutes is firm, as is the 40-minute cutoff for play length — actually, the goal is 35 minutes, with a five-minute grace period.

The rule audience members most have to keep in mind is that once a play begins, no one may enter or exit the auditorium, barring a major emergency. There are three sessions — Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday afternoon — and three plays will be presented each session. Things happen to change up the order at times, but the scheduled lineup at Oceanside is as follows. The Friday, 6 p.m., session will feature Medomak Valley High School from Waldoboro, Mount View High School from Thorndike and Searsport District High School. The Saturday, 12:30 p.m., session will feature Winslow High School, North Haven Community School and Edward Little High School from Auburn. The final session, Saturday at 6:30 p.m., will feature Camden Hills Regional High School from Rockport, Lincoln Academy from Newcastle and Oceanside. Belfast is scheduled to perform in the Saturday noon session at MDI.

The annual festival is produced by the Maine Principals' Association's Drama Committee and the Maine Drama Council. Admission at the door is $8, $6 for students, for each session, with all proceeds donated to the MPA. Two winners, one from each class, will be selected from each regional to advance to the state finals, which will be held Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23 at Camden Hills Regional (Class A) and Freeport (Class B) high schools.

Following is a rundown of what each of the Midcoast schools, in alphabetical order, are doing.

Belfast Area High School

Directed by Michael Lawson and Sonja Richardson, BAHS will compete with “The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza” by Don Zolidis. The mostly toga-clad cast of almost 40 play multiple roles ranging from Zeus to zombies, culminating in a wild 5-minute version of “The Iliad.”

“Just make sure you don't use our production as a source for your research paper,” said Richardson.

Camden Hills Regional High School

Margaux DePue takes the Camden Hills one-act helm, as an advisor, for the first time with a one-act stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” The period piece features vintage costumes, flapper-age choreography and a cast of 18, backed up by a large tech crew.

“Our amazing student director, Duncan Hall, has been so supportive of his incredible cast and crew, all of whom have been working to capture the essence of Fitzgerald's famous work,” said DePue.

Medomak Valley High School

The Medomak Valley Players’ one-act is also student-directed, advised by Nancy Durgin — make that two students, Kristen Simmons and Amanda Dever. “Speed Date” is a short comedy by Janet Allard and offers just a few roles. This made casting tough, given the healthy turnout to auditions.

“As first time directors, casting this show took a lot of consideration,” they said.

Mount View High School

Mount View may be a Class B school, but it will bring the leviathan RMS Titanic to the festival. Directed by Angela Nason, with student assistant director Alexis Strain, Mount View will present “Voices from the Titanic,” a docu-drama by Pat Cook. A cast of some two dozen students portray passengers and crew — including musicians — of the doomed vessel on April 14, 1912.

"Because the characters are the actual people that were on the ship, we have done a lot of research into their lives before and after the sinking … Most of our actors play more than one character, and making each of their characters different from each other has been the biggest challenge with this play for us," said Nason.

North Haven Community School

Those who live on islands often have to make their own fun, and the North Haven troupe has gone one step farther by writing their own one-act comedy, “Sombrero.” The play was written by the cast of six and is directed by Courtney Naliboff.

“The play came about because my students (one-acts is a class at NHCS) had some specific ideas about what kind of show they wanted to do, and the best way to meet their specifications was for them to write it themselves … It's funny and definitely a product of teen brains,” said Naliboff.

The troupe will present a preview performance for its community Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at Waterman’s Community Center. The group usually performs during the matinee session, to make it easier for island residents to attend.

Oceanside High School

After a regional-winning visit to the dark side (“Notre Dame”) last year, Oceanside, helmed by Alison Machaiek, returns to a favorite genre — a fast, funny take on Shakespearean comedy. OHS’ “Twelfth Night” is set as a circus, Circ D'Illyiria, and promises to be a 30-castmember joy ride.

“It’s awfully fun, a nice change from the somber set of last year — I have released my glitter goddess,” said Machiaek.

Searsport District High School

Chris Goosman’s troupe will present a play sure to strike a chord with fellow teens, “One And All” by Alan Haehnel, a Vermont playwright. The story involves a teenager, anxiously preparing for a date that he hopes will end with his first kiss. Many of the other characters “live” under his troubled brow; one even represents his seething hormones.

“It's played on a bare stage, which is a new thing for most of our current actors, who have been accustomed to big sets,” said Goosman.

For more information about the Maine Drama Festival, visit mainedramacouncil.com. Results will be posted as they become available.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.