Directors' Notes: Almost, Maine
Activities Week is always an exciting time. For staff and students working on the Senior Production of Almost, Maine this is a week of technical and dress rehearsals. The cast, crew and musicians finally bring the play together into a performance. Tickets are selling well, but there are still some seats available for both nights of the show. BOOK NOW and don’t miss out!
Theatre was decimated by Covid. Across the world, productions fell over in 2020 and then again in 2021. Now, in 2022, for the first time in three years, we have worked hard to get a Senior School Production onto the Woodleigh stage.
We had to be creative about how we could successfully stage a school play 3 years into a pandemic. We knew we would need to film the work, so it could be streamed, or used as a hybrid theatre/film performance in the event of a Covid disruption. We knew that this meant that we would need to work on two versions of the play; one for the stage and a back-up to camera.
We identified that we needed a text that had multiple roles, but scenes that were contained or separate, so that we could work with small groups of students at a time. This way we would have a better chance of managing and scheduling rehearsals around inevitable illness and absence. Following the last couple of challenging years, we also wanted to work on a play with themes and content that was positive and uplifting for our students. We read multiple scripts, networked, researched, began brainstorming an original theatre piece … and then Stuart Hendricks from Music Theatre International suggested we have a look at Almost, Maine.
It is a cold, clear night in the middle of winter. The northern lights hover in the sky above the residents of ‘Almost’, a fictional remote town in Maine.
Under these lights, nine couples find themselves falling in and out of love, through a series of loosely connected stories.
Almost, Maine is funny, touching and moving. We immediately knew that it would engage our students. More importantly, we could see that the structure of the play had the potential to navigate its way through a pandemic affected rehearsal schedule.
A further challenge with a school play is finding a vehicle that can accommodate a large cast. Almost, Maine is an ensemble piece with 19 substantial roles. With permission from John Cariani, the playwright, we have also added the role of ‘The Narrator’, who voices some of the evocative stage directions.
We were determined to get a head start on the production to ensure that we had the maximum chance to work around any curve balls thrown up by the pandemic. Auditions took place at the end of last year, and students were asked to learn their lines over the summer break. Our first rehearsal took place in the first week of Term 1 and weekly rehearsals have been scheduled since then.
Throughout the rehearsal process, our student musicians have been working alongside our actors. Student Musical Director, Amelia Evenden and her team have composed and arranged all the original music for the performance. This has been no mean feat! The five-piece band has crafted fourteen pieces that beautifully underscore and link the scenes.
Woodleigh students have been encouraged and supported to undertake every role needed to realise this production. From back-stage manager, set and prop designers, to costume design, sound effects, marketing, poster design, animation, and so on. We have students stage managing the show, overseeing all the technical operations (lighting, sound, microphones) and running the front-of-house. In this way, Almost Maine is a truly collaborative student experience with over 40 students from Years 7 to 12 involved.
Prepare to have your hearts opened, warmed, and touched. We are thrilled to bring live theatre back to Woodleigh, with our 2022 production of Almost, Maine.
CAREY SAUNDERS and LUCY WHARINGTON
Directors Almost, Maine