After passing the preliminary round on March 4th, Holliston’s Theater 370 struggled with a loss at the semi-finals of the Massachusetts High School Festival, hosted by the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild (METG).
The festival includes 112 one-act plays produced by METG member high schools state-wide and is hosted on three levels: preliminary, semi-final, and state rounds. Two schools chosen at state rounds will represent Massachusetts in the New England Drama Festival.
“I thought it was a miracle we made it to semi-finals. I personally feel like we’re outranked to some of the schools whose drama departments have more money and resources than ours,” said sophomore and tech crew member Isabel Beck.
Before this year, it had been five years since Holliston made it to semifinals. This year the group decided to write their own play, an option given to member schools, rather than adapting a play or using a pre-existing play.
“The ones that tend to move on to semi-finals are not written by the students, but it was a choice we made this year to write our own,” said Beck.
Ms. Courtney Bottomley, the director of the drama department, wanted to be more of a facilitator when helping the students write the script.
“I gave them very blanket story lines that were based mainly on fiction, but one was a historical event. The students were drawn to the more serious themes tied with the history, and that’s where we started. I gave them the tools and the inspiration.” Other than that “…there is barely anything of mine in the script,” said Ms. Bottomley.
The play, ‘The Next Voice You Hear,’ is based on the Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of the ‘War of the Worlds’ in 1938. The broadcast was not real, but only a realistic dramatization of a martian invasion on Earth. Theater 370’s show involves background radio players and three different storylines in which characters react to the chaos.
This show was a shift in tone from last year’s The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy by 19th century playwright, Oscar Wilde.
Sophomore and leading actress Katie North thought it made sense they didn’t move onto states.
“This was our first time moving to semi-finals in a long time, so it was really new and different for us. We hadn’t experienced it before and we didn’t really know what to expect,” said North.
“There is a Globefest-type of show. No one says it, but [it] tends to be more serious even if it has a few funny moments. The serious shows usually move on due to their deep themes and dramatic moments,” explained Beck.
“Although our show was more serious, shows that went on to [states] had more technical elements. I think we were lacking in tech and could have done more with our sets,” added North.
The festival brings together several drama departments from the Massachusetts District for an all-day event at the different host theaters, where students can talk to other students about their shows, hang out, and play games.
“It’s a long day but there is a lot of time to hang out with and meet people from other towns. We played Mario Kart and Rock Band on our breaks, which was so fun,” said Beck.
Ms. Bottomley agrees that the festival is worth it for the students and likes for them to see all types of theater, from the more traditional to state-of-the-art programs.
“You got to see different levels of theater and what people were able to accomplish with their resources,” said Ms. Bottomley.
North also thought it was a positive experience.
“We hadn’t moved on in 5 years, and just to get there and say we went to semi-finals is pretty cool and a really good experience to have. I think if we make it next year we will know what to expect,” said North.
On the day of preliminaries, everything went according to plan for Holliston.
“It was amazing. They really sunk into their roles and they had a great tempo, all their cues were hit, tech’s cues were hit. Everything came together, perfectly,” said Ms. Bottomley.
After the performance, the actors went back to practice the next week, fixing critiques made by the judges.
“Our biggest problem was pacing. We have a very long scene in the middle of the show, the restaurant scene, and that was one the judges said was a little slow in places,” said Ms. Bottomley.
In addition, the crew got costumes for semi-finals, since the judges thought “…the sweatshirts, jeans, and sneakers of the crew disrupted the flow of the 1930s time period,” said Beck.
Although they lost at semi-finals, members of the cast agree that it was a good run.
“Everybody bonds for Globefest, even if we don’t win. Ms. Bottomley always says it’s not the cast, it’s the company,” said North.