Local schools stay local

Recalibrating: drama fest 2018

By Dagney C. Ernest | Mar 07, 2018
Titus Kaewthong as Laertes, left, battles Robert Scott as the hapless title character in Oceanside Theatre’s “11 Variations on Friar John’s Failure.” Oceanside is back in Class B this year.

The 87th annual Maine Drama Festival opens with nine regional competitions around the state Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10. Winners in both classes will go on to compete at state finals later in the month.

For the eight Midcoast high schools participating, things are a little different this year. All are competing on the Midcoast, at either Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport or Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro.

In the past, one — usually Searsport District High School — or two were assigned farther afield.

“Searsport gets to be local because we are no longer doing an all Class B site at MDI, now that MDI has moved up to Class A,” said Thomas Heath, in his second year as sites coordinator.

MDI’s not the only school changing classification in 2018. The classes are determined by enrollment figures compiled by the Maine Department of Education. These are updated every two years, at the same time as the athletic reclassification enrollments. The cutoff from A to B moved down 25 kids this year: Class A is 500 or more, and Class B is 1 to 499. Rockland’s Oceanside, with 488 students, is now in Class B, so some longstanding theater matchups won’t be taking place this year.

Belfast Area High School, still in Class A (just barely), is among the troupes heading down Route 1 to Medomak Valley, which is hosting its first Maine Drama Festival competition in 18 years. Heath, a Medomak Valley alum who works at Camden Hills, said he had hoped to have Medomak host in a year that Camden Hills was hosting a state final “so I could take my students there, but it wasn't to be.”

Part of this year’s scheduling was driven by a desire to have Windham High School host a final, as it will for Class A (the Class B final will be at Oceanside). One of Windham’s assistant principals is Deb McAfee, who served as principal at Medomak Valley in the mid-1990s; and was on the Maine Principals' Association Drama Committee for years, before stepping down this year.

“I wanted to get states into Windham before she retires,” Heath said.


Admission to the Midcoast Regionals is $8, $5 for students and senior citizens, per session. Play order is subject to change.

Camden Hills High School, Route 90, Rockport

Friday, March 9, 6 p.m.

• George Stevens Academy, “Dogg’s Hamlet” (B)

• Searsport District, “A Fish in Her Kettle” (B)

• Bonny Eagle, “Humbletown: The Greatest Town on Earth” (A)

Saturday, March 10, noon

• Waterville, “The Green Bird” (A)

• Edward Little, “Lafayette No. 1” (A)

• Vinalhaven, “The Bear” (B)

• North Haven, “In the Tank” (B)

Saturday, March 10, 6:15 p.m.

• Camden Hills, “The Idiot and The Oddity” (A)

• Bucksport, “At the Bottom of Lake Missoula” (B)

Medomak Valley High School, Manktown Road, Waldoboro

Friday, March 9, 6 p.m.

• Wiscasset, “Three Tables” (B)

• Gray-New Gloucester, “Nora’s Lost” (A)

• Medomak Valley, “The Butterfly Queen” (A)

Saturday, March 10, noon

• Mount View, “The Con and Other Urban Legends” (B)

• Boothbay Region, “Selections from Spoon River Anthology” (B)

• Winthrop, “Band of Sisters” (B)

• Lincoln Academy, “Blood Wedding” (A)

Saturday, March 10, 6:30 p.m.

• Belfast Area, “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” (A)

• Oceanside, “11 Variations on Friar John’s Failure” (B)

And he wanted to get the fest back to his alma mater, which regularly hosted during Rick Ash’s tenure there. Now the Strom Auditorium’s technical director, Ash handed the MPA’s drama festival coordinator duties to Heath last year. Several of Heath’s fellow alums are in tech positions between the two schools, including Matthew Kopishke, who, with Heather Webster, is co-directing Medomak’s one-act and hosting eight other schools.

“I really didn't plan on hosting this year, but a couple of host schools dropped out, so here we are,” Kopishke said. “It's going to be fun, the kids are excited and we have a great team of adults.”

Kopishke said the Waldoboro school’s auditorium has slowly been brought “to something closer to up-to-date” over the last five or six years, making for “a good base for other schools to build on when they come and visit.”

Schools that will be visiting, and competing, at Medomak are the Midcoast’s other MVHS — Mt. View High School of Thorndike — Belfast, Oceanside, Wiscasset, Gray-New Gloucester, Boothbay Regional, Winthrop and Newcastle’s Lincoln Academy.

Coming to Camden Hills are Searsport, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Bonny Eagle, Waterville, Edward Little, Bucksport and George Stevens Academy. The two Fox Islands schools are scheduled as usual in the between-boats Saturday afternoon session. It will be their first regional at Camden and required a last-minute adjustment for North Haven; Director Courtney Naliboff said she hadn’t realized the Strom’s light and sound boards are half the auditorium away from each other.

As always, public attendance is encouraged, but there are some rules to follow. Time allotted for each production is 40 minutes (and not a second over), with five minutes on either end to set up and strike the set. During the performances, audience members are barred from entering or exiting the auditorium (emergencies aside), so plan accordingly.

Following is information on what and who Medomak Valley, North Haven, Vinalhaven and Oceanside are presenting at the Midcoast regionals; for the details on the Belfast, Searsport, Mount View and Camden Hills entries, see the link below.

Medomak Valley High School

Co-director Kopishke said his troupe’s theme this year has been “challenges.” Scripts had to be changed midstream due to cast size and getting ready to host the regionals. The final play, “The Butterfly Queen” by Christian Kiley, includes a school shooting, which feels much more timely than when it was chosen.

“It’s an important plot point, but not what the show is about,” Kopishke said. “It's a show made up of vignettes; some relate directly back to the incident, and some don't.”

Medomak’s “The Butterfly Queen” cast features Hailie Brown, Wyatt Sykes, Andrew Beaucage, Emma Kunesh, Emily Lupien, Kalina Chazin-Knox, Rachel Curtis Bowden, Allison Lupien, Elias Miller, Catherine Shelmerdine, Rosamund Hickey, Eliza Nelson and Kylie Moody. Danica Juntura in handling lights and Josh Hagin, sound. The tech crew comprises Abigail Bradeen, Will Cox, Rhiannon Gould, Jordan Hayes and Emma Kavan. Longtime community costumer Kerry Watts Weber is on board.

North Haven Community School

The smallest Class B (and Maine) school is going for comedy and crustaceans with “In the Tank” by Rosemary Frisino Toohey. And who is in said tank? A pair of lobsters, played by Marten Dunn and Sierra Koerber-Marx. As is the case in sports, the Maine Principals’ Association, which sponsors the drama fest, allows eighth-grade participation in schools whose enrollment is below a certain threshold, and that’s what happened this year.

“I am very proud of my two eighth-grade actors! They requested a comedy, and ‘In the Tank’ fits the bill, while focusing on a subject near and dear to North Haven's heart: lobsters,” said Naliboff.

The minimal production’s claw-some costumes were designed by community member Carrie Brezzo with student assistance from Kaylee Ames, Layla Sparhawk and Mercedes Sparhawk, who also comprise the set crew and handle stage management. Josiah Hansen did sound and light design and will handle sound, while Thananya "Pim" Srilekdee will be up in the light booth.

Naliboff’s assistant director is community member Maria Keeler. The built-for-the-ferry set was designed and constructed by community members Joel Rowland, Tom Emerson and Brett Thompson. First, though, the troupe will preview its play Thursday, March 8, at 7 p.m. at the island’s Waterman's Community Center. Admission is $5; $2.50 students; $15 family cap.

Vinalhaven High School

Vinalhaven had planned on presenting a take on George Orwell’s dystopian “1984,” but, as sometimes happens everywhere, the island school’s troupe had to make an abrupt turn just days before the fest. Instead, Vinalhaven will bring Anton Chekhov’s charmingly silly romantic farce “The Bear” to the mainland.

The show-must-go-on cast, directed by Medomak alum Chloe Keller, features Keaton Lear, Molly Wentworth, Jackson Day and Timothy Farrelly. Madison Young is running lights and Corey Lazarro the sound. Justice Grant, Caleb Turner, Max VanDyne and Carmen York comprise the crew.

Oceanside High School

Oceanside Theatre’s production, “11 Variations on Friar John’s Failure” by Yuri Baranovsky, explores various reasons Romeo never got the news that Juliet was faking her death. The Shakespearean spoof has a lot of slapstick comedy and is a favorite of theater teacher Alison Machaiek, who directed it once before, 14 years ago.

“There's plenty of room for great schtick, sight gags and acting challenges, and many of the actors appear in multiple roles,” she said. “While we were in production of the fall musical, ‘Anything Goes,’ this ensemble practically cast itself through their interactions and strong individual performances.”

Machaiek’s Tech Theatre classes created the set. Featured in the cast are Johanna Sandin, Zoe Goff, Lauryn Arsenault, Skylar Prior, Myla Ferland, Ella Finger, Keller Lessard, Robert Scott, Anthony Radzimirski, Elliott Spear, Jack Freeman, Cody Ward, Titus Kaewthong, Uriah Thongsophaphone, Oliver Vanorse-Jones, Aidan Andrews, Alex Mahar, Michael Dougherty, Trevor Lawry, Delia Saastamoinen, Ignacia Gomez, Raechel Joyce and Abby Veilleux.

The production crew includes Amber Johnston, Kimmy Roman, Kristina Ferguson, Sara Dorr, Anna Poisson, Casey Pine, Hunter Fowles, Matt Waldron, Kalli Grover, Seb Sanfilippo, Jun Narita, Erin Dugan, Isabel Corona-Ferlauto and Oda Eckhoff. David Johanson serves as technical director.

At each of the nine regionals, a panel of three judges will decide which performances advance to the state finals, to be held March 23 and 24. Full regional results will be posted Sunday, March 11, on the Maine Drama Festival’s Facebook page and on villagesoup.com.

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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for more than 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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