Portland student playwrights to be showcased at Deering High

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PORTLAND — Aspiring playwrights at Deering High School will have their one-act plays staged this weekend, with one of the plays being chosen to represent the school in the annual Maine Drama Festival held each March.

This is the first time that four student-written and student-directed plays will appear on stage in this way, according to Kathleen Harris, the school’s drama club adviser.

She said over the years Deering has submitted works that are written and directed by students to the state drama festival, but this is the first time the school will hold its own mini play festival in advance.

Harris said the call went out to students interested in submitting a one-act this past fall, and all four plays that were turned in on time were “read and judged production-worthy.”

The only prompt Harris gave to the playwrights was that each entry had to be no longer than 30 minutes and must be appropriate for all audiences, including children.

The plays are “Revolution & Revelry,” by Austin Hollifield-Nauta and Dylantha Musonerwa; “Snowball,” by Joel Kahn; “Dr. Bishop,” by Cameron Wood, and “Hint,” by Ellis Craig.

They will be put on at 6:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13 and 14, in the school auditorium. Tickets are $5 per person. Call 874-8260 for more information. Each of the plays will be staged without scenery or costumes in a workshop format.

Harris said the student actors taking part in this weekend’s slate of shows will all have a chance to audition and take part in the play that’s chosen for the Maine Drama Festival. Deering is set to compete in the regionals at Lawrence High School on March 10 and 11.

“Kevin O’Leary, the drama teacher at Morse High School in Bath, is the inspiration for this project,” Harris said. “Kevin has brought student written/directed plays to the one act festival for approximately 10 years. (As) a Deering graduate I like to think he’s still having a positive impact on his alma mater.”

Hollifield-Nauta said the best thing about the festival being held this weekend is “these shows are all very different in nature.”

His play is based on the The Women’s March on Versailles in October 1789, which is considered to be one of the earliest and most significant events of the French Revolution.

The women were protesting both the scarcity and the high cost of bread in the marketplaces of Paris. They ended up ransacking the city armory for weapons. Growing to a mob of thousands, the crowd marched from the city to the palace at Versailles, eventually forcing the king and most of the French Assembly to return with them to Paris.

“I read about the women’s bread march and thought that it would make a good play,” Hollifield-Nauta said. He decided to “write a play because I had an empty summer ahead of me and I’ve always enjoyed writing so I thought I would give it a try.”

Kahn, a senior, based his play on “the insensitivity I’ve seen expressed in the public realm toward people and groups that are different. I felt an obligation to comment on the need to see past our differences and respect our fellow man.”

He said writing for the stage is different than other types of writing because “every word needs to be felt more powerfully and written more carefully. Each and every word matters more.”

Kahn said it’s “a very empowering feeling” to see his play produced. “Words need sharing and I love having the chance to share my ideas and thoughts in (this) very public way. … I tried to show how there are problems with close-mindedness in every religion and culture (and to prove) that we are not as different as we all may seem.”

Wood, who produced a comedy, said, “Writing and directing a comedy was something I have wanted to do for a while.”

“I have always been a fan of comedies (and) I wanted to write a play because I saw it as an interesting challenge that could be a lot of fun. Also, as someone who thinks constantly about story ideas, I saw this competition as a way to actually use one of these stories instead of just keeping them in my mind.”

“Having my words come to life on the stage is personally the most satisfying part of this whole experience so far,” he said. “I hope (the audiences) get that not everyone has to be Shakespeare in order for a play to be good.”

Craig could not be reached, but his play is a murder mystery with a nod to the board game Clue, where players move from room to room to solve a whodunit.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Student playwrights at Deering High School will have their shows staged this weekend, Jan. 13 and 14. From left are Ellis Craig, Cameron Wood, Austin Hollifield-Nauta and Joel Kahn.