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BATH — Admission to Morse High School’s offering in this year’s regional Maine Drama Festival one-act play competition gets you a trip to “Foreverland” – a roller-coaster ride through the trials and tribulations of sometimes stigmatized love.
Morse senior Cassia Tirrell wrote the production, a take on J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan tales and their fantasy locale of Neverland.
“Cassia has always been enamored of the that story and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,'” Kevin O’Leary, Morse’s one-act director, said last week. He said she has taken the fantasy qualities of both, “and wrapped it up in a little package.”
But Tirrell’s story reaches far deeper. And, like last year’s Morse play, Max Ater’s “In Decent Man,” it touches on themes which, despite their commonality, are sometimes discomforting and controversial.
The story is set in present-day London’s Kensington Gardens. Coincidentally, May 1 will mark the 100th anniversary of Barrie installing a Peter Pan statue in those gardens, and that statue appears in the Morse production.
Tirrell tells the story of two young women meeting, discovering each other and falling in love, O’Leary said. They “hold onto each other’s hands and hearts and words, as they grapple with their personal pain, one having (endured) sexual harassment because she’s gay, and the other being homeless and being abandoned by her mother.”
For the 40 minutes of the play, the two girls – American Milo and Briton Melody, played by senior Elizabeth Swanson and junior Dana Douglass, respectively – try to figure out if they can make their relationship work.
“Are they ready for the big step?,” O’Leary asked. “And by the end of the play we discover whether they are ready for the big step of commitment or not.”
“Foreverland is an idea that the two girls are grappling with,” he continued. “One has problems with that idea, the other doesn’t. It’s going to be their utopia – maybe. Or maybe just a reality. … These girls are desperately trying to get real with each other, and not live in a fantasy.”
This is O’Leary’s 11th one-act production. The English and drama teacher said Swanson’s and Douglass’ performances are “absolutely, breathtakingly amazing. … For two high school girls to kiss on stage … it takes a lot of courage in your own community to bare your soul that way.”
He added that “they knew, when they got cast … that this was going to be in the show, and they both said, we just want to give Cassia her play. It wasn’t going to be easy for them, but they wanted to honor the playwright’s intention, and so they’re going for it.”
The story features an array of characters modeled on those from Peter Pan, and Peter Pan himself (or herself, if you’re Mary Martin) is a cast member as well.
“Forveverland” will debut at Morse’s Fine Arts Night on Wednesday, March 7. It will be performed again at the regional Maine Drama Festival at Freeport High School, 8:30 p.m. on Friday, March 9.