Ellsworth High School took home first place for its performance of “The Secret in the Wings” at the 2018 Maine State Drama Festival’s Class B regional competition held last weekend at MDIHS. The cast includes (Kneeling left to right): Emma Henry, Raiya Vikberg, Aurora Haslam, Seneca Maddocks-Wilbur, Kiana Maddocks-Wilbur, Christa Ouellette and Aliza Dwyer. Back row (standing) are: Mark Fuller, Nicholas Hansen, Tyler Davis, Emily McPhail, Taylor Richardson, Fiona Tucker, Cody Harper, Makayla Fishburn, Mark Berry, Kayla Harrison, Ian Brenner-Simpson and Atticus Deeney. PHOTO BY CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Ellsworth, MDI, Bucksport take firsts at one-acts

Ellsworth, Bucksport and Mount Desert Island high schools were all top winners, taking home three Class A and B first-place trophies for their respective one-act performances at the 2018 Maine Drama Festival’s regional competitions held last weekend at MDIHS and Camden.

EHS and Bucksport will go on to compete at the Class B finals March 23-24 in Rockland while MDIHS will head to the Class A state finals the same weekend in Windham.

A small disclaimer here: Bucksport and George Stevens Academy performed in Camden and as a reviewer I was only able to attend the regional held at MDI High School. I regret not being able to write more about Bucksport’s winning performance and GSA’s fine acting.

According to festival organizers, Bucksport took first place in Class B for its performance of “At the Bottom of Lake Missoula,” a devastating tale about a teenager who loses her entire family in a tornado and becomes isolated in her grief.

Haley Conner, who played the title role, earned All Festival cast honors along with Kameron Landry, Olivia West and Nate Bowden. They also were honored by judges for their ensemble performance, lighting and stage management. Director Tara Woods is scheduling an Arts Night performance of their winning one-act for next week. Times will be posted on Facebook.

Also competing in Class B, GSA’s “Dogg’s Hamlet” took third place and earned All Cast honors for Magnolia Rose Vandiver, Ian Ramsey, Maira Vandiver and Adam Mathewson.

At the MDI regional there were many fine performances from the nine participating schools, including Sumner Memorial High School’s “Cheating Death,” a clever tale about a group of therapy patients who pull an “I am Spartacus” move when death comes to take one them. Anthony Farragut, who gave a fine, irony-ridden performance as death, and Bjorn Collins as one of the duplicitous patients were both named to the All Festival cast. Also excellent was Deer Isle-Stonington High School’s dystopian “Medea.” Special kudos here to All Festival actor Amy Friedell, who managed to infuse her Medea with all the necessary rage and malevolent power despite a pitched battle with a wicked cold. This production was also cited for its heart-thumping drumming, the excellent costumes and evocative lighting.

At MDIHS, though, the top Class A and Class B winners were in a category of their own. Having chosen challenging one-act plays to perform, the cast of MDIHS’s “Jack or the Submission” and EHS’s “The Secret in the Wings” cast gave a master class in how it’s done.

From the moment the crew of “The Secret in the Wings” started rolling out pallet after pallet of set elements onto the bare stage, the audience sensed something special was about to happen. In under five minutes, they assembled a fully furnished, multi-level home with walls, windows, chairs, stairs, lamps, a sofa, rugs, art, coat rack, a chest and various bric-a-brac. The set conveyed a faded elegance and an air of magic and mystery. And, oh yes, a small musical ensemble was set up in the back.

And then story after story unfolds in a sort of Grimm meets Shahrazad fashion. Each tale — often grisly ones — and sometimes musical ones loosely led to the next. Fairy tale princes and princesses, ogres, kings and queens, wicked nurse maids, sea captains and a mysterious child who scratches the floor like a terrier, come and go with alarming speed and yet it’s no problem keeping track of their various stories’ threads.

While Eliza Dwyer and Cody Harper were singled out for All Festival cast honors, the special commendation the cast received for ensemble acting and synergy is a better indicator of the fast paced, near seamless show Jasmine Ireland directed here. Ian Brenner-Simpson also received a well-deserved honor for his original score and Makayla Fishburne for her stage management, which must have been a waking nightmare.

Judges Jon Kimball, Liz Rollins and Ann Ross were all effusive in their praise. “This is an imaginative and intelligent interpretation of a fantasy world that seems organic and surprising.”

The judges awarded the performance a near perfect score of 287 out of 300. EHS will join Bucksport and compete March 23-24 in Rockland.

According to Director Ireland, a tentative home performance date at EHS is scheduled this Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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