Smell of the greasepaint lures high school students

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CUMBERLAND — Fall drama production season is in full swing at area high schools, and while audiences may appreciate the costumes, set design and acting, they may not realize what happens behind the scenes.

Audrey Northway, theater director at Greely High School, said the students in her program grow tremendously, thanks to their participation in high school theater.

She said during the course of a four-year period she watched one student change from a quiet, timid freshman who only spoke in the last three minutes of the play, into a leading man, playing Tevya in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

While some students grow and improve enough to go on and act in college and professionally, she said it is just as satisfying to teach students who many not have that much desire to simply enjoy the theater.

“Not all kids are like that, that’s a relatively smaller few that choose to do this professionally, but it’s a pretty remarkable transformation to see,” Northway said. “That’s really satisfying to see as a director, but it’s also really satisfying to see the kid who is probably never going on to perform outside of high school, but they will become the next generation of audience members.”

At Falmouth High School, Director Dede Waite said students grow so much because they have a chance to experience all parts of the production process.

The Theatre Company at Falmouth High School’s third fall production, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” was brought to Waite’s attention by a group of sophomore students who wanted to take on the show. The production, which runs Dec. 6-8, is entirely student driven, with some direction from Waite.

“I said ‘I will give you eight to 10 rehearsals and we will keep the set very simple and we will get the costumes put together, but you have to do everything – lines, blocking, you have to have it all down,’ and they’ve done it,” Waite said.

She said that if this production goes well, she will continue the model in years to come.

Northway said Greely’s program is less student-driven as far as picking plays, because there are so many students involved in the program, but that students drive the production in other ways.

Students began tap rehearsals for their production of “42nd Street,” which opens Thursday and runs through Sunday, in the middle of August. Northway said she chose the show because it is a “wonderful look” at the life of a production, but also because it could accommodate the 50 students involved.

“I try to choose a show that has a large ensemble and (“42nd Street”) is one of those great shows that really allows students with many different talents to be involved,” she said.

Both Waite and Northway said that so many students get involved in the theater programs because they are inclusive groups where the students have the chance to challenge themselves.

“(Theater) touches such a spectrum,” Waite said. “We have the top athletes, the top students, the kids who do nothing else (but theater), the STEM kids who are running toward tech. We have the top people in the school and students who barely make it.”

Waite said that she hopes the community will get involved and fill the seats at Falmouth High School to see “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” but that people should attend all of the local high school productions.

“Get out and support these young people because you’re not just supporting them, you’re getting the chance to see live theater well done,” she said. “This art is so important. We have an audience that comes from all over the greater Portland area because the shows are so well done.”

Amber Cronin can be reached at or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.

Sidebar Elements

Yarmouth High School students Lexi Inger, left, Anna Baker, Sophia Emmons, Eva Yeo, Henry Jones, Kirsten Thomas, Karl Munroe and Carrie Adams make up the Von Trap family in “The Sound of Music,” which runs through Saturday at the school. Tickets are $10 and must be reserved online or by calling the box office at 846-2335.

Greely High School’s theater company will present “42nd Street” Thursday through Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the door and cost $9 for adults and $6 for seniors and students.