Bath school goes 'Underground' with 1-act play

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BATH — Morse High School’s offering in the annual Regional One-Act Play Competition is a new twist on the old adage about not judging a book by its cover.

“Underground,” a piece written by senior Olivia Shipsey, takes the stage at Windham High School at 8 p.m. Friday, March 4.

“Sometimes we have to look beneath the surface of a person, to see who they are,” said Kevin O’Leary, an English and drama teacher at Morse with 14 one-act productions to his name, in an interview Feb. 26. “There’s more to a human being than what’s on the surface. Thus, ‘Underground.'”

The tale takes place in and around a Boston subway car. Poppy, played by senior Sarah Young, is a writer who accidentally drops her notebook under the tracks. Since the notebook contains her final creative writing assignment for her professor, Poppy, in desperation, plans to jump down onto the tracks to retrieve it.

Poppy’s friend Harper, played by senior Alizhay Gagnon, leaps in to save her. Once the two have stopped arguing, and Poppy has explained her predicament, Harper convinces her that she can rewrite everything, and that Poppy’s stories are not just in her notebook but, more importantly, in her heart, O’Leary explained.

The two friends spend the rest of the 35-minute play in the subway car as Poppy recounts to Harper the three best stories. Those tales are brought to life on the subway by the play’s other actors.

Having no paper, Poppy writes the stories on her arms, which, by the end of the play, are covered.

“It’s a coming-of-age, life-affirming, coming-out-of-a-bad-moment-to-find-who-we-really-are kind of play,” O’Leary said.

Fifty-five students are involved in the play. Should the piece win the regional competition, it will advance to the state level two weeks later. The state winner then enters the New England competition.

“Olivia’s one of the best students I’ve ever had,” O’Leary noted of the playwright, saying she spent a year writing “Underground,” and has “never let up off the throttle.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Alizhay Gagnon, left, and fellow Morse High School senior Sarah Young star in “Underground,” penned by senior Olivia Shipsey and entered into the annual Regional One-Act Play Competition

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.