Expressive silence: High school theater club wins awards at annual festival for performance

Mar 4, 2024

One thing about Wareham High School theater students — they are going to take a risk. 

Last year, the club competed in the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s 2023 High School Drama Festival with the play “An Experiment,” which is loud with lots of yelling and fighting. However, this time, students turned down the sound and opted for a play without words: “Emotional Baggage” written by Lindsay Price.

In this play, various characters meet one another at a train station and the audience follows their struggle with their individual “baggage,” which is demonstrated physically with props and through their character’s repeated actions. This baggage ranges from being in dead end job, being insecure about looks or living in the past. 

“It looked interesting,” said Akira Montrond, who served as head of costuming and played the character “Insecure about looks.” “It’s something that not many schools have done before in the MTG Festival and we took another spin on it by making it into the early 1920s to give it more of that silent film kind of vibe.”

The play’s director, Sophia Maniglia, said, “It's really just a touching show, especially if you relate to any of the subjects.”

The preliminary round for this year’s festival took place on Saturday, March 2. The festival is held annually by the guild in order to allow theater students the chance to show off their talents and compete against over 90 schools across the state. The plays are entirely student driven; each school receives 10 minutes to set up their productions and 40 minutes for the performance.  

Wareham went up against performances of “A Not so Dark and Stormy Night” by Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, “Radium Girls” by Walpole High School, “Anonymous” by Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School, “The One Act Play That Goes Wrong” by B.M.C. Durfee High School, “The Layover” by Dartmouth High School and “Icarus” by the competition’s host, Joseph Case High School.

Unfortunately, Wareham will not be going onto the state’s semifinals round. Dartmouth, Joseph Case, B.M.C. Dufree and approximately 40 other schools were chosen to move on in the competition this coming Saturday, March 9.

However, the theater group was honored with some awards following their preliminary performance. 

While music suggestions were provided in the script, the students felt it didn’t fit with their version of the play.

Therefore, three underclassmen who were “really passionate about music” got together and composed a “beautiful arrangement” for the production, Maniglia said.

And Isis Vieira, Brooke Kidder and Tyla Jones received recognition for their work with an award for “Excellence in Music Composition.” The three originally composed 30% of their production's music. 

Kidder said the process began with the team creating playlists for each character, which they then drew inspiration from as they wrote the play’s music.

Jones added how they also drew from the different scenes to encapsulate different moments in the music.

Vieira said the group wanted to compose all of the music, but couldn’t due to time constraints.

“I feel like it's not what we expected,” Vieira said. “I feel like we went in thinking it was just going to be very simple, basic — as easy as possible music. We ended up doing it a lot better than we actually thought.”

Montrond received an award for “Excellence in Makeup” while Aidan Dillen received one for “Excellence in Costuming.”

Montrond explained the makeup for each female character included glued down eyebrows with accentuated thin arches that reflected the style of the 1920s as well as heavy blush, contour and beauty marks inspired by celebrities of that time period such as Marilyn Monroe.

Lilyan Medina, who played the “Well-rounded person,” received an award for “Excellence in Acting.” 

Following the preliminary performance, Medina said she felt the show was “awesome,” adding how the actors relied on non-verbal communication throughout the production.

Willow Hegarty, who played the character “Can’t get over first love,” said acting on stage is “terrifying” when there are a bunch of people watching. However, she tried not to look at them and felt the show went “really good, especially since it was a silent play.”

“It’s kind of hard to convey stuff,” Hegarty added. “We really had to work on that, but I think it turned out well on stage.”

Koral Davis, who played “Chip on shoulder about weight,” said this year’s show was a bit more stressful than usual due to the fact the club didn’t hold a home show before their festival performance.

“We didn't have time to predict any mess ups,” David said. “We just had to really improv it all if we messed up, and I think that made the show that much more fun and that much more stressful.”

Rowan Dion, who played “Dead end job,” emphasized how well everyone performed on stage despite the limited amount of preparation time they had.

Bryan Fernandes, who played “Overbearing mother,” said, “I had so much fun doing it onstage.”

Fernandes said he believes it was their best performance yet.

The show's director, Maniglia, said this was the first time she directed a play, so it was an entirely new experience for her.

“We have a really strong team of actors and set and crew and the booth is amazing,” she said, adding how she struggled with communicating her creative vision initially, but once she learned how to express her ideas, everything began to come together.

Candy Johansen, the club’s adviser since after the Covid pandemic said, “It's pretty much always the same — it's controlled chaos. It's a lot of fun. I love these kids. They work hard. They are devoted to the theater — devoted to making sure that we put on a fantastic festival play.”

Johansen added, “I'm very proud of them.”