CMHS Drama Program Prepares for Big Year

By Lura Jackson

 

Last year, the Calais Middle High School Drama Program experienced a triumphant return to the stage after not being offered for several years. Pulled together mid-year, the program presented a single play – The Internet is a Distract – Oh Look a Kitten! – at the end of the school year, garnering tremendous support from the audience with both of its highly comedic, skillfully- delivered performances. This year, Program Director Kati Grass has already lined up two plays, and everything is indicating that this will be another hallmark year for the program.

The two plays picked for this year branch out from the theme of last year’s take on comedic social commentary. Having two separate plays enabled Grass to expand each concept further, meaning there will be one “more serious” play that explores social concerns and a second comedic play that will capitalize on the strengths of her high school performers.

The first play is titled Model Student. “It has to do with stereotypes, and how sometimes we’re programmed into those stereotypes,” Grass explained. “It’s about breaking away from that, and knowing that it’s ok to not fit those stereotypes.” Grass chose the play in part to enable the incoming cast of 7th graders to gain valuable perspective, but she said that the message is relatable for everyone. “It doesn’t matter – if you’re a teenager, if you’re an adult, there’s always those stereotypes.” Model Student is tentatively planned to be shown on November 29thand 30th.

The second play, titled 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview, will be the program’s entry into the statewide one-act play festival in March. Written by Ian McWethy, the same playwright who penned The Internet is a Distract – Oh Look a Kitten!, 13 Ways is a similarly comedic script that Grass hopes will be relatable to the high school-only audience at the festival. “It should be fitting,” Grass said. “All of the kids that are heading into college will be able to relate to it.”

Calais hasn’t had an entry into the state one-act festival for several years. Grass herself participated in one of the more successful entries in her senior year, where Check Please won the regional competition. “It was a crazy year because we’d been up and down as far as how many cast members we’d had,” Grass recalled. “To be able to overcome that and end up winning regionals was fantastic. That was easily my best memory from high school.” The one-act competition will be held in March; along with the performance at the competition itself, there will be a community-centric performance the same month.

An unnamed third play is tentatively planned for May.

Following last year’s successful relaunch of the program, Grass has had a steady positive response from the students in the school. Many of the high school cast are returning, some are new recruits and several middle school students couldn’t wait to sign up. “The incoming 7th graders were really excited to be able to do drama this year,” Grass said.

Part of the excitement is being generated by the tech team who will have their first hands-on experience with a sound system this year. The program aligned with the music program to acquire an all-new sound system – a development that will mark a sharp improvement over last year when the sound system consisted of Grass’s school laptop and a $20 speaker. “The students are really excited because it’s a new piece of equipment for them to learn,” Grass said.

The program is thriving in large part due to the support it has received, Grass said. The school itself – everyone from teachers to support staff to administration – has been constantly supportive, including providing props and equipment whenever possible. Seeing everyone working in concert has been a great experience for Grass. “It has taken an army, which I think is fantastic,” she said. “We have amazing sports here, amazing education, a lot of different outlets to express yourself. I think that this was one area where we hadn’t had something for so long, I’m just thrilled to be a part of it coming back.”

 

The community has been another critical factor in ensuring the success of the program. “A drama program is really hard to run and have if the community doesn’t support your shows, and the support we had last year over the two shows was fantastic,” Grass said. “The fact that the cafeteria was packed was very humbling. I think the students really felt that.”