Tonawanda News

November 3, 2013

Beneath the northern lights

THS Drama Club does a little something different with 'Almost, Maine'

By Jill Keppeler jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Tonawanda High School Drama Club has often, in the past, turned to the story possibilities of intrigue and mystery for its fall shows. But this year, they’re focusing on something a little different — and all the drama of the human heart.

On Nov. 8 and 9, the Drama Club will present “Almost, Maine,” a series of nine interwoven vignettes set in an imaginary town in Maine, each focusing on “falling in love, falling out of love ... all the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Daniel Lynch, THS teacher and director of the play.

“It’s a small cast, but a very challenging show,” he said. “We usually do the murder-mystery shows for our fall production, but this year we decided to go out of the norm and do a very different show.”

During a recent afternoon on stage at the Tonawanda Alumni Auditorium, students rehearsed one of the vignettes against a simple backdrop of pine trees and a wooden fence. Except for the very beginning, middle and end, all of the segments all take place at the same time within the context of the show, and each ends with the northern lights in the sky above, Lynch said.

There are 12 student cast members for this show (which is usually produced with four people) and only two of them are on stage at any given time, he said. “They had to break their comfort zones a lot for this show. (There is) stage kissing, a lot of lines, a lot of dialogue, but they’re done an absolutely wonderful job.”

The show, written by John Cariani, is one of the most produced plays among U.S. high schools, according to Dramatics, the magazine of the Educational Theatre Association. The students are portraying older characters, all at different stages in their lives and relationships, allowing them to stretch their acting chops quite a bit, Lynch said.

Faith Schoelerman, a senior who plays the character of Marvalyn, said the show is a little more of a challenge to both the audience and the actors on stage.

“It’s not a direct storyline. All the stories intertwine. You have to think about how they interconnect, rather than just watch,” she said. And as an actress, “You really have to think about how you’re going to portray who they are. A lot of the play is really awkward situations. You have to make sure you show that.”

Erin Burris, a junior who plays the character of Gayle, said a further complication is that the show only features a few people per scene. There’s no ensemble on stage to cover for you or to distract the audience -- there’s only that one other person.

“You’re constantly feeding off each other,” she said. “You can only rely on one or two other people to remember lines, to hold up each other.”

Despite the very different vignettes within the show, the theme of love stays the same. Sometimes it’s love lost, sometimes it’s love found, but it’s all about love -- all confusing and messy and wonderful and painful and strange.

Emily Maxwell, a senior who plays Sandrine, spoke about how her character bumps into an ex-boyfriend in her vignette and how (universally) awkward a situation it is.

“It’s not all happy. It’s very real,” she said. “Not everyone gets a super-happy ending. The author did a good job showing actual human nature, with that.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Almost, Maine," presented by the Tonawanda High School Drama Club • WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 8 and 9 • WHERE: Tonawanda Alumni Auditorium, 600 Fletcher St., Tonawanda • TICKETS: Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at Tonawanda Middle/High School and at the door. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Daniel Lynch at 694-7670, ext. 2258, or email dlynch@tona.wnyric.org.