A dedicated group of students is gearing up to perform at the Regional One Act Festival in Falmouth on March 6th and 7th.
Schools are categorized as either A or B, and perform in regional competitions. This year, WHS students will perform the show The Chronicles of Jane, Book 7. A panel of three judges will give each group a 20 minute critique and then pick the top two shows to move on to the state competition.
The show must run less than 40 minutes or the group will be disqualified. “Usually you’re very alert to timing, and you have a couple of timekeepers. If you are heading towards 39 minutes and 58 seconds you tell your actors to just get off the stage,” said Director Rob Juergens. “That’s going to hurt your score, but it’s better than being disqualified.”
The Chronicles of Jane, Book 7 is about a high school girl who has put off writing a term paper until the very last night before it is due. It details the obstacles that come her way in trying to complete the paper, with characters like procrastination, time, the computer and the nymphs of slumber.
A unique feature about this show is that the student actors become most of the set, said Juergens. They create desks and chairs, computers, plugs and walls with their bodies. “They do the whole set,” he said. “The only real big set piece is the book that holds the Chronicles of Jane and all her nefarious stories.”
The show is as much student driven as possible, Juergens added. There is a student assistant director, a student rhythm director who also oversees the pit band, students who have composed music and done the choreography and blocking. The group works together to brainstorm ideas and solve problems. “It’s a huge group involvement,” said Juergens.
Another interesting element of this particular cast, said Juergens, is that many students who are normally “techies” working behind the scenes on productions are in the onstage cast. “We made a concerted effort to get them into the show and do something onstage for once, which they thought was pretty cool,” he said.
While not part of the official One Act festival, in Windham the students hold a preview weekend that is open to the public. This serves a few purposes, according to Juergens. It allows the cast a chance to do the show in front of an audience. They also invite guest judges to come and give critiques like they will receive at the festival. Finally, the preview weekend serves to raise a little money, since extracurricular theater activities are not funded by the school beyond paying Juergens’ salary. “We actually have to raise money if we want to do anything,” said Juergens.
The preview weekend will take place at the Windham High School Auditorium on the weekend of February 27th and March 1st. Friday and Saturday will feature 7 p.m. shows, with a 4 p.m. show on Sunday, March 1. On Friday, the group from Gorham High School will also perform their play, giving audience members two shows for the price of one. Tickets to all performances are $5 per person.
“We’d love for people to come to the preview weekend and support us,” said Juergens. It’s not a large investment of time, he added, since the show is only 40 minutes long. And the students love to see a big audience when they perform. “They want to be seen. They want to share what they are doing with people,” he said.