For the first time in many, many years the Silver Lake Regional High School Drama Club participated in the METG Festival.
METG, short for the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild, Inc., has spent nearly a century striving to encourage and improve participation and education in theatre arts for students and teachers in both middle and high school. The festival includes 112 one-act plays put on by high schools across the state.
There are preliminary, semi-final, and state rounds at which awards are presented for student excellence in acting and technical design.
Silver Lake participated in the preliminary round hosted by Marshfield High School where they won four of the coveted awards.
Seniors John Coady and Quinn Bonneyman and junior Caitlyn Beckwith were all awarded leading acting awards while senior Shelby Philbeck won a set design award.
“We performed Boxes which is a one act play that uses symbolism to talk about teenagers’ stress in the current world,” Beckwith explained.
Of her role, Beckwith said, “I played the role of Holly who was at the end of the show, a voice of reason. In the beginning it seemed like she had the perfect life but really her deeper story was that she had problems like everyone else which I feel like resonates in our world where we think someone is perfect but they have problems of their own. The character taught me not to judge other people at first which I was guilty of doing before, so I’m really glad I got to play her and learn that.”
Bonneyman, who will most likely study music at Brandeis University in the fall, played the role of Jack. “He’s the protagonist of the show who struggles with throwing his expectations away in the form of a box. People will put things in a person’s box and that’s their expectations or so he thinks. Throughout the story, it’s a development that he realizes that its others people’s hopes for him… he can choose what goes in his box and it goes to show that students have control of their own life and people in general have control of their own lives,” Bonneyman explains.
Coady, who will attend Brown University next year, describes his character as follows, “I played Chris who seems like the carefree easygoing character but as you learn he threw away his box because he couldn’t handle the responsibility that he felt was placed on him through the passing of his sister. That put a lot of stress on him and instead of facing it he decided to bury it. Throughout the show Chris is learning and understanding what it means to have people believe in you, what it means to have people have hopes for you. It was really incredible for me to step into that role because I’ve never felt real emotion on stage until I did that role. It was an incredible experience for me personally being able to play Chris in the show.”
Philbeck became involved in the production later in the process when it was decided that a set piece was needed. Putting her creativity to good use, Philbeck spent multiple rehearsals painting the lockers that would serve as the backdrop to the performance.
The Silver Lake students that attended the festival all describe a sense of comradery that was felt between all attending schools as well as an appreciation for the performances of their peers. Of her experience at the festival Beckwith said, “Everyone from all the different schools were so supportive of us and we were so supportive of them. I made a lot of friends. I was really proud of our cast and myself and the other groups.”
Bonneyman added, “When you get there, there’s no crevasse of time that’s not filled with something fun and entertaining.” Regarding performing in front of the other schools Bonneyman said, “You get out there and it’s an exhilarating experience because the whole audience also wants to be there and they are all so passionate about what they do so all of them react and all of them respond to what you’re doing on stage which is amazing.”
Coady echoed similar sentiments saying, “That was the Silver Lake kids first time partaking in this event and it was so much more than what I could have imagined it was; just going and seeing all of these different shows and of all these incredibly talented people in your area, you really get to learn a lot from how they go at things and how some of the actors do certain things. That was an incredibly humbling and informative experience. I was also struck by how accepting everyone there was of everyone else.”
Philbeck explained her experience as a crew member, “We went to METG and it was unreal to me because as a crew member you feel like you’re in like a niche of a niche because drama club seems like you’re secluded in a social sense and then crew even seems more secluded. But you were just in such an environment that you feel like you can relate to everyone… that was crazy to me because I had never seen that many people that were like me.”
Senior Hannah Arroyo, who plans to study communications at the University of New Hampshire, also attended the festival as an actress and described her time at the festival as an “unforgettable experience in a place where so many people are just like you.”
A love of theatre is apparent in listening to these students speak with such fervor about their experience at the festival as well as their future plans. While Beckwith is only a junior and is uncertain where she will go to school after next year she plans to continue with acting and theatre saying, “It’s been too big a part of my life to not do it all of a sudden. I love it.”
Bonneyman, who plans to study music, explains, “Acting and music, they kind of go hand in hand to me. I will be doing a lot of theatre as well. It’s just such a big part of my life.”
Coady, for his part, is unsure what he will study at Brown but knows that he will continue to act in some capacity. As he puts it, “Acting has been my passion since I was like nine so I’m never going to stop doing that no matter what.” Philbeck plans on studying biology describing her artistic endeavors as her “soul work” despite having alternate career plans.
The Silver Lake drama club put on a performance of Almost Maine this past weekend with performances both Friday and Saturday.
Coady describes it well, saying, “Almost Maine is a very unique show set into eight different scenes, all short stories in and of themselves; they are all independent from each other and stand alone as their own stories but they are all connected in some way and set in the same town. All of the stories are about love – two individuals falling in love, falling out of love, and all of them end in this thought of almost love. It’s really a beautiful show, it’s a funny show. There are upsetting parts, there are beautiful parts, there are adorable parts so it’s a very diverse show and the script is magnificent.”
Teachers Ashley Ferrara, Kim Orcutt, and JennyLyn Berry serve as the drama directors for the spring performance and the METG festival. Orcutt described the decision to do the festival as an easy one thanks to the quality of the seniors involved, “We haven’t done this kind of play competition before and we felt confident because of these students that are seniors this year. We knew that they would have the ability to dedicate themselves and help us be patient because we didn’t know what we were doing. We had some amazing leaders from the tech world, from the building world, and from the acting world.”
Ferrara gave credit to seniors Josh Heath and Nic Asnes for lending their skills and providing instruction on the technical aspects of production. Ferrara said of Heath, “He pretty much was in charge of building everything and instructing others and with him gone next year, the only reason we’ll still know how to do things is because he taught everybody how to.”
Asnes ran all of the lights and sounds. Ferrara continued, “Those two kind of manned the technical side of the show for us and we couldn’t have done it without them.” Ferrara also said they couldn’t have done it without the help of volunteers such as Orcutt’s father Don Orcutt who competed in and won a state title at the METG competition in the 70’s and who spoke to the Silver Lake students prior to the festival.
With regard to the lessons taken away from the festival, Ferrara said, “It’s hard to know how you can improve if you never leave your own school so that was the best part of the experience. The kids learned stuff but we also learned stuff as the directors.”
Illustrating the love the directors have for this group of seniors, Ferrara, Orcutt, and Berry joked about being in denial about their impending graduation before reminiscing about a moment at dinner when they found themselves crying into their cupcakes.