The show will go on for Milton High School Theatre Company – to the New England one-act festival, that is.
The school’s production of “Beowulf” impressed judges at the Vermont State Drama Festival on March 21, who voted MHS to the top circle of the competition, this year held in Rockport, Maine.
It’s the fifth time in six years MHS has reached this level.
“It’s pretty crazy,” director Paul Curtiss admitted.
“Beowulf” enacts the Old English epic poem, which charts the titular character’s battles and eventual downfall. It’s not traditionally a play, so MHS students took a stab at playwriting, adapting the hero’s journey for the stage.
“It’s a different process working with a written work,” Curtiss said. “It was hard to tell what we were going to get.”
The production was a true ensemble play, with no student playing a lead role. Instead, they all portray storytellers along the Oregon Trail, taking turns recounting Beowulf’s tale.
The structure will make it easier for the troupe to perform next month despite losing 10 students who are attending international trips to Costa Rica and France, Curtiss said.
“We are retooling as we speak,” he said last week.
The director was proud of the Milton actors, four of whom won awards: Steven Beaulieu and Jesse Agan for their musical accompaniment and Emmy Patry and Kyle Masi for acting.
About 40 students will attend the festival alongside student-actors from St. Johnsbury and from each New England state. As is tradition, Curtiss delivered the good news on the school bus, this year in the same cryptic fashion as he did in 2010, when the festival was last in Maine.
“Do you guys like lobster?” he asked, and Sarah Manfredi, whose sister, Hailey, was on the bus five years ago when Curtiss posed that same question, immediately got the joke.
“Every year has been beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “I never go into a festival saying we got this one. We never know until we get on the bus and open the envelope.”
At the festival, students will attend workshops, socialize with other cast members and make a trip to the ocean.
It costs up to $11,000 for the trip, or between $200-300 per student, half of which will be covered by drama department funds. The group has to fundraise the rest.
So far, it has planned another community showing with admission by donation. Curtiss expects to sell T-shirts there at a “fundraising price” of $20-$30 per shirt.
Curtiss encouraged community members to come out and support the award-winning company.
“These kids have worked incredibly hard. A lot of them don’t get to see theater outside of Milton, of Chittenden County if they’re lucky,” Curtiss said. “Student work is going to be improved by going to these shows.”
Help Milton High School Theatre Company attend the 2015 New England Theatre Festival from April 23-25: Attend the community showing of “Beowulf” on Wednesday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at the MHS auditorium, or directly support their goal at www.gofundme.com/qbee35gg.