TOWNSEND — For the North Middlesex Regional High School drama program, taking the stage is far more than just an act — It is a way to embrace innovative thoughts, free will and teamwork.
“Even though we have teachers as directors, the students definitely get a say in what happens. It’s very student-run,” said the stage manager.
“We’re all really involved and we all put forth our own ideas towards the play, which I think helps us a lot and is why we’ve done well in competitions. It’s because we try and merge everyone’s ideas together.”
Michelle Mulkern is a senior and has been involved in the North Middlesex theater program through her four years of high school. As a freshman she began as a “regular tech,” building sets or handling costumes and makeup, but quickly moved up in the ranks when she began working as stage manager the following year.
For Mulkern and classmate Hannah French, the assistant student-director, March 5 will surely be an unforgettable day. It is the last time that the two will participate in the Massachusetts High School Drama Festival preliminary round at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.
“We still have to finish up building our set and making sure the costumes fit, but I think the actors are prepared,” said French. “It’s a competition so everyone wants to do a good job, and I’m sure that by the time the show rolls around we’ll be all set.”
In preparation for the big competition, the drama program will put on performances at the high school March 3 and 4. Two shows are scheduled for each day, one at 5 p.m. and one at 7, and admission is $5.
According to Mulkern, “This is actually really nice because we have two days to work out all of the kinks, and perform it in front of a local audience before we take it to more of a regional level and perform in front of a bunch of school that also have extraordinary plays.”
This year, students will present Property Rites, a one-act play written by Alan Haehnal. The play is very conceptual and deals with moral issues, like being a nonconformist.
“This is actually one of my favorite plays that we’ve done,” Mulkern shared. “It sort of has a futuristic feel to it, but everyone can relate to it as well. The script itself and the writing is interesting, and it definitely gets you.”
As Mulkern described the plot of the script, she said, “It’s basically about a man who is trying to sell this machine that has several robots and doll-like creatures on it; the robots do different things.”
According to Playscripts, Inc., the man in the play, Kyle MacManus, has invested millions in this “high-tech sculpture” that is programmed to perform thousands of movements, monologues, dialogues and more. But just as he is about to sell the product, the individual figures come to life trying to achieve autonomy.
“What happens is one of the robots breaks free and develops a mind of its own. So it’s about breaking out against the molds and being nonconformists,” explained Mulkern.
Two years ago, the school’s student-run play made it all the way to the semifinals performing a play titled Beyond Tolerance. The script was written by the same director, Haehnel.
Drama director Ray Kane said he is confident in the students’ ability to make it that far once again.
“Preparations are going very well,” said Kane, a French teacher at North Middlesex. “I believe we always present a strong show. It’s always been an excellent performance.”
Kane has been program director for the last five years. Julia Brown, a Latin teacher at the high school, joins him this year. Kane and Brown have been working hard to codirect a powerful play for competition.
“She is a wonderful, wonderful addition. She’s excellent at what she does, and she’s actually quite an amazing costumer,” said Kane.
The North Middlesex drama program has been competing in this event for years. According to Kane, they made it all the way to the state finals during the late 90s. North Middlesex students have won a great many awards for excellence during past competitions.
He said, “Our students have just as good a chance as any. Most of our actors have acted before. They’re just really good at what they do. They do it because they love it and they know they’re well prepared.”
To make it to the state finals, the club must go up against six other local schools and pass the preliminary round scheduled for March 5. Following that, a semifinal round and a final round are all that stand in the way of the state finals.
Mulkern said, “I think we’ll do really well. We’ve been working hard on this play. We’re all really excited because the play itself is phenomenal, and we’re just all hoping to do it justice.”