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Monday, March 23, 2015

WATCHING MY PLAY IN COMPETITION: A Big Thank You to Cheverus High School!

A production of my play, "The Dark Tower" presented by Cheverus High School
From Left to Right:  Jesse Rodrigues, Heather Bridge, Zoe Leblanc, Abby Thomas
Greetings theater lovers!  Welcome to Theater is a Sport, my little piece of the internet where I talk about all things theater!  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I'm a playwright, actor, and director who's been at it for about 25 years, and am still learning more and more each time I'm involved in a play.

Today, I want to talk about the joy a playwright feels in seeing their work performed.  After all, that's why we write plays in the first place, right?

I live and work in the state of Maine, and, even though I have 33 published plays for the youth, high school, and community theater markets published, I very rarely get to see a production of one of my plays performed in my home state, except for productions I put on myself.  My plays have been performed in 43 different states, as well as in Canada, Australia, and even Prague, but, for whatever reason, I don't get a whole lot of action here in Vacationland.  For whatever reason, I seem to be most popular in Iowa, Nebraska, California, and South Dakota.

So, naturally, when I learned that Cheverus High School in southern Maine was producing my play "The Dark Tower" for the Maine Principal Association's One Act Play Competition, I was thrilled!
The talented group from Cheverus won their regional competition and made it to the State's.  I had the good fortune this last weekend to travel up to the state competition held at Stearns High School in Millinocket and cheer them on!  I remember when I was a high school student how much I loved the one act play competition, and to know that now, all these years later, a play of mine was there at the state level, in a location I may very well have traveled to, was a genuine full-circle kind of rush for me.

First, I should say, I was a little nervous.  Not because I was worried about their production--- after all, they had made it to the state competition, so I knew that they obviously had worked hard and done well.  I was nervous because it's always a little nerve-wracking for a playwright to see how well their script does in competition.  I wanted it to serve this group well.  I wanted their decision to do my play, and work their hearts out on it, to be one that they didn't regret.  And, of course, as I had never seen a high school group do this particularly challenging play, I was desperate to see if the play itself worked as a performance piece.  No matter how proud I am of a script on the page, seeing if it works on its feet is a whole different story.

I am proud to say that I was blown away with what Cheverus did with the play.  Their costumes, set, lighting, and sound were all fantastic, and really brought together a stage picture that captured the mood and tone of the play.  It is a bit of an epic fantasy in forty minutes, and the teenage actors handled the heightened language with ease, and made it accessible.  It was clear they had studied the script, and the legends it portrays with a a serious eye for detail, and had internalized the feeling and themes throughout.  In short, they got it.  They knew what I was trying to say with the play, and served the intentions, while also making it their own.

They made this playwright very proud.

I must give special props to the added fight choreography, which helped to break-up and change the pace of a very dialogue heavy script.  Well done!

After their performance, I waited in their section of the audience to make their triumphant entrance after striking the set.  I shook all of their hands.  They were tired from a long day of travel, tech, and, now, the performance, but their smiles and appreciation for my support was evident, and meant a lot to me.  I shook each of their hands and thanked them, and had them sign my playbill, and then let them rest.  After all, it was their moment.  While I wrote the play, this was their production, and I wanted their experience at states to be about them, and not about the playwright.

Their director told me that it was the first time their school had ever made it to the state competition, which made me feel good, too.  Now, obviously, I know it wasn't my play that gave them the edge to make it to the state's, but, rather, their hard work and dedication, but it still felt good all the same to have my work represented there.

The other plays performing that evening were "Dogg's Hamlet", "The Dancers", and "A Doll's House".  I must confess, I couldn't help but smile at the fact that I was on a bill with Tom Stoppard, Horton Foote, and Ibsen.  That's something that doesn't happen for me very often.

So, once again, thank you to Cheverus High School for choosing my play, "The Dark Tower".  I hope it is something you will  always remember with fondness, just as I will always remember watching you perform this play that is so special to me.  Your production is a prime example of why I write for teenagers, and you definitely showed the audience that theater is, in fact, a sport.

Until next time, thanks for reading my blog, and feel free to comment below, and follow me.

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