Nine short plays about love and loss
February 10, 2022
The pandemic prevented the staging of a student play last year in Shelton High School's Performing Arts Center.
But after class these days, the theater is abuzz with students adjusting lights, moving props and preparing to launch into rehearsals for the romantic comedy "Almost, Maine," which debuts at 7 p.m. Friday.
"Project!" acting teacher and director Wendy Burr calls to the 17 masked actors on stage warming up their voices. "To be or not to be!"
"To be or not to be!!" they bellow back.
"Luke, I am your father!"
"Luke, I am your father!!"
"Almost, Maine" is staged at 7 p.m. Friday, and 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday in the theater. Face masks are required, and patrons will be seated for distancing. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 for kids and $10 for adults.
"Almost, Maine" was written by John Cariani and premiered in 2004 at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine. The nine vignettes in the play explore love and sometimes heartbreak in a mythical town of Almost, Maine.
Burr, the show's artistic and technical director, saw the show in college when a friend directed it.
"I really liked the modern lightness of it," Burr said. She added, "It looks at love almost like caricature."
Every scene shows couples and trios grappling with feelings, all under the stars of the northern lights. The script calls for kissing, which had to be eliminated for mask-wearing students in a time of pandemic, Burr said.
"We have to find other ways to imply intimacy," she said.
The audience "should expect to have a magical time."
Because there was no show last year, lots of kids showed up to participate on and off stage, Burr said.
"It's a transition back to normalcy," she said.
The student actors are Gvido Meteris, Becca Byykkonen, Hunter Middleton, Tati Reed, Milo McKay, Madi Nelsen, Charlotte Hansen, Tillie Maier, Sio Nuxoll, Phoenix Miller, Cody Reed, Izzy Sukolsky, Cinder Nuxoll, Chloe Peterson, Ashley Gooding, Maddie Allred, Li Valenzuela, Cristina Elguero-Mateo, Lizzie Chapman and Logan Vogel.
Shelton High School
alumni Daisy Johns and Gage Cress are the assistant technical directors, and alumnus Joseph Stritzel is the assistant director. Katie Peck is the stage manager, Max Gill the set designer and Leo Reynolds the costume designer. Marissa Betts runs the lightboard, Maisie Todd the soundboard, and Hannah Pratt oversees the video production.
Burr grew up in Maricopa, California, a small town outside Yosemite. She spent about a decade in Santa Cruz, first as a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, then a teacher.
Burr moved to the Portland area and couldn't find a job teaching, so she managed a hardware store for a year until she thought, "What am I doing with my life?"
She was hired in 2019 to "reinvent," she said, the theater program at Shelton High School. She staged one play just before the pandemic, a night of one acts.
The Performing Arts Center "is amazing," Burr said. "It's about three times as large as the theater I had in high school. It's like a professional venue. There's even an orchestra pit."
IF YOU GO
WHO: Shelton High School students.
WHAT: The romantic comedy play "Almost, Maine."
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Shelton High School Performing Arts Center.
ADMISSION: Suggested donation of $5 for kids, $10 for adults
ALSO: Face masks required, seating will be assigned for distancing.