BRANDON — More than 250 high school students from all over Vermont will travel to Otter Valley Union High School this Friday and Saturday, March 28-29, for the 2014 Vermont State Drama Festival.
Theater departments from 10 Vermont high schools — Green Mountain Union High School, Hartford High School, Hazen Union School, Stowe High School, Thetford Academy, People’s Academy, The Long Trail School, St. Johnsbury Academy, Milton High School and Otter Valley Union High School — won the chance to take part in the state festival after competing in regional competitions over the last few weeks.
Beginning on Friday afternoon and concluding Saturday night, each school will perform a one-act play that must last no longer than 60 minutes. Students have the opportunity to watch each others’ performances and critique them, voting for individual acting, costume and technical awards.
The festival starts at 4:15 p.m. on Friday with Stowe and Hartford high schools performing in the first block. Otter Valley and Hazen Union perform at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, Green Mountain Union and Milton start the day at 10 a.m. At 3:30 p.m., Long Trail School and People’s Academy go on. The final block, at 7 p.m., will be Thetford and St. Johnsbury academies.
Plays vary from comedies to dramas, and at the end of the two-day festival two schools will be chosen to perform at the New England Drama Festival at St. Johnsbury Academy. Directors and three professional adjudicators vote on the best performances and decide which schools will move on to the New England Festival.
Jennifer Bagley, drama director at Mount Saint Joseph Academy, has taken part in many regional and state festivals. She says they provide a wonderful opportunity for high school students to interact with kids from all over Vermont who also love theater.
“Ask any one of the kids who take part,” says Bagley. “Playing in front of an audience made up of kids who also do drama is one of the best experiences they can wish for. They get the jokes; they understand what’s going on; they appreciate the nuances and are just really attentive and supportive.”
Besides performing in their school’s one-act productions, high school students taking part in the two-day Vermont Drama Festival also have the opportunity to take part in a variety of workshops that in past years have included things like improvisation, ballroom dance, mask making, drumming and stage lighting.
Host school Otter Valley’s award winning Walking Stick Theatre will present “The Birds,” an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes that dates back to 414 BC. Costumes for the elaborate production were designed by Otter Valley graduate Jamie Sherwin. Last year, Otter Valley Union High School’s one-act performance of “David and Lisa” won top honors at the state festival and went on to be performed at the New England Drama Festival in Rhode Island.
The public is invited to attend any of the 10 performances. Tickets cost $5 for one block of two shows and are available at the door.