Falmouth, Yarmouth take drama festival top honors

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Theater troupes from Falmouth and Yarmouth high schools took first place in Class A and Class B, respectively, at the finals of the Maine State Drama Festival.

The annual event is “a strong tradition in the arts community,” Dede Waite, director of the Falmouth Theatre Company said. The rules of the festival are strict, challenging its participants with a 40-minute limit on length of performance and a five-minute restriction on set and strike time, she said.

“We have a cross-section of students involved … from all walks of life,” Waite said. “It’s just as exciting as being in the middle of March Madness to be at these festivals.”

Several years ago, the competition’s popularity caused its numbers to become unwieldy, resulting in a division into two classes according to school size.

This year, nine schools competed in the Class A state festival at Bangor High School; another nine competed in the Class B division at Rockland District High School.

Waite and Yarmouth Director Betsy Puelle agreed that choosing a play can be quite a challenge. They must find a show of the proper length, or that can be trimmed with the permission of the playwright. It must be something that will fit the actors in their programs and that can be staged within the confines of the competition.

“We’re starting right now reading for next year,” Waite said.

Taking first for the second consecutive year, Falmouth performed “Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh,” a relatively new play that Waite said “really spoke” to the students. With just three cast members, the serious piece offered a realistic look at Antoinette’s life and the lives of those who loved her, compelling the company to select it because of their absolute commitment to it rather than believing it would win, Waite said.

“In the end,” she noted, “we did both.”

In addition to the cast, 10 crew members worked on the preparation and performance of the show, Waite said.

Puelle said Yarmouth’s entry, “Shakespeare in Hollywood,” had been at the top of her to-do list for years. But after five requests to cut it were all denied by the publisher, Samuel French, she said she figured it would never happen. But the sixth time was the charm, and they received permission on the condition it was billed as a director’s cutting.

“This particular group of students is probably the strongest and most dedicated group I’ve had. They grabbed the opportunity,” Puelle said. “They were amazingly dedicated to the show and loved it from the beginning.”

The play is a spoof, set in 1934 on a fictional movie set where some of the well-known actors of the day are filming Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” With challenging physical routines and zany modern comedy, all interwoven with Shakespeare’s dialog, it was a challenge for the 25 cast members, she said. The company had 39 student actors, set designers and crew members.

“All the shows at the festival this year were really high quality; some of the strongest shows I’ve ever seen,” Puelle said.

The Yarmouth group will go on to the New England competition in Connecticut, where they will compete against 11 other schools. The three-day festival offers workshops and student forums that critique and discuss each show. Because four of her cast members will be out of town during the festival, which falls during spring break, Puelle said she had to recast the parts.

The Falmouth troupe has chosen not to attend the Connecticut competition because one of its cast members will be unavailable that week.

In addition to receiving top honors for their plays, members of both theater companies also received individual awards.

For Falmouth, special commendations went to Max Brinn as crew chief and to Maria Darrow, Kyle Lucas and Jahrel Registe for scenic and set design. Jack Coster, Molly Frantzen and Courtney Wood were named to the all-festival cast.

For Yarmouth, special commendations went to Jonathan George for lighting design and to the first- and second-semester stage design classes for set design and execution. Mike Cormier and Caitlin McGrail were named to the all-festival cast.

Theater-goers have one more opportunity to see the Yarmouth performance, at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 16, at the Yarmouth High School auditorium. Falmouth presented an encore of its winning entry on Wednesday night, April 1, at  the Falmouth High School Theater.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.

n-FalmouthTheater-040209.JPGThe Theatre Company at Falmouth High School won the Class A Maine State Drama Festival Competition with its performance of “Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh.” Molly Frantzen, left, is Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Courtney Wood is Marie Antoinette and Jack Coster is Alexis Compte de Ligne. (Contributed photo)

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n-YarmouthTheater-040209.JPG“Shakespeare in Hollywood” by the Yarmouth High School Theatre Company received top Class B honors at the Maine State Drama Festival Competition. Oberon is played by Adam Copeland, who holds Puck, played by Laurie Roberts. (Marti Stone photo)