ST. ALBANS – This weekend, Bellows Free Academy – St. Albans will host the One Act Drama Festival, a daylong event of workshops dispersed between six competing hour-long performances courtesy of area high schools.
This year, students from Bellows Free Academy – Fairfax, Milton, Rutland, Winooski and Morristown will be competing with BFA-St. Albans at the St. Albans high school, each school bringing their own relatively short performance.
“Ultimately we want to get a representation of theater in Vermont’s high schools,” said BFA-St. Albans drama teacher and theater director Susan Palmer. “We really just want to celebrate theater.”
For BFA-St. Albans, one of the biggest hurdles appeared to be the hour-long runtime. “The time restriction is a little hard,” Palmer admitted ahead of a rehearsal Tuesday afternoon.
During a run the night before, BFA-St. Albans’s performance, an abridged take on Naomi Iizuka’s Anon(ymous), had run long by about four minutes, something the theater director hoped to shave down Tuesday night.
Anon(ymous), an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey that replaces Odysseus’s voyage home with a refugee’s quest to reunite with their mom, is traditionally billed as an hour-and-a-half performance. With Iizuka’s permission, Palmer and students from BFA-St. Albans trimmed the story to an hour and condensed the set into something more minimalistic.
Sound effects were coordinated by students from stage right, composed by, among others, BFA senior Michael White.
“A lot of us worked together to do this,” White told the Messenger. He walked through the effects arsenal they assembled, explaining how running a brush over snares created the chug of a train and how bass drums had a double-billing as both thunder and bombs.
“I kind of listen to a sound and think about what sounds like that,” White said. “I think we’ll be ready for Saturday’s show.”
For Pilot Deslauriers, the BFA freshman playing the titular role of Anon, the One Act Drama Festival would be his first time playing lead at the high school. “I’m obviously anxious,” DesLauriers said. “I think we’ll do well.”
“It’s very dramatic… and it’s obviously very deep,” DesLauriers said of his role as a refugee child. “I want people to know that it’s very serious – this is something that happens in the world every day.”
Monday night in BFA-Fairfax, middle school and high school students from the Fairfax academy ran through a performance of The Yellow Boat, David Saar’s recounting of his son’s struggle with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, better known as AIDS.
“Our cast and crew, grades 8 through 12, have been performing, building and painting set pieces, designing sound and light cues and curating costumes and props for this miraculous production,” said Marcy Perrotte, one of two BFA-Fairfax teachers heading that high school’s performance.
“The story of [Saar’s son] reminds audiences to stay present in our daily live and always appreciate what we have,” Perrotte added.
According to Palmer, while the competition is important, what matters more are the connections made between the drama departments from the schools. “You develop a kind of relationship with the other schools,” Palmer said. “They have a history and there’s a kind of hype and intensity with it.”
Performances are scheduled throughout the whole day on Saturday, broken into a trilogy of blocks with two shows each. The first block is set for 10:30 a.m., with Fairfax slated for the 2:30 p.m. block and St. Albans scheduled for the 6:30 p.m. block.
Two schools will be selected to move on to state championships. From the state championships, two schools will be selected to attend a regional, New England-wide competition.
For those interested in attending, tickets for an individual block would cost $5 and a daylong ticket costs $10.