Josh Circe as Kreon joins Nate Dooley as Oedipus, after he blinded himself after learning a prophecy came true. (Photo by Robert Whitcomb)

Josh Circe as Kreon joins Nate Dooley as Oedipus, after he blinded himself after learning a prophecy came true. (Photo by Robert Whitcomb)

For the fourth time in five years, Milton High School’s drama club is headed to the New England Drama Festival.

The cast and crew of nearly 50 performed their modernized version of “Oedipus,” a centuries-old tragedy, at the State One Act Festival at Otter Valley High School on March 29.

Milton HS was one of two Vermont schools to progress to the final performance, held at St. Johnsbury Academy from April 15-17, Director Paul Curtiss said. The other is Dorset’s Long Trail School for its performance of “Silenced on Barbour Street,” which uses a devastating 1940s circus fire as a backdrop.

“Oedipus” tells of the titular hero’s downfall when he learns he unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, fulfilling a prophecy he spent his life denying. It’s not cheery, and student-actors worked hard to channel that emotion. It obviously worked.

“They just put a level of commitment to the story and worked really hard to tell that story honestly,” Curtiss said. “Audiences were transported into another world, even though it was a very horrific world.”

Milton students learned of their victory back on the bus; contest rules dictate keeping the results secret until everyone is off-campus. The driver pulled into a Mobil station, and Curtiss polled which two schools deserved to move on, as is his tradition. Then he opened the envelope.

“The bus starts shaking” with cheers, Curtiss recalled. “It’s a lot of noise for a small space.”

At New Englands, students will partake in workshops, dine at a celebratory banquet and view two winning plays from each state.

“You get to see theater at a high level,” Curtiss said, noting he sometimes gets ideas for next performances there. It’s also a way for Milton students showcase their talent, he said.

Curtiss is proud of the achievement, saying the play went through numerous conceptual changes; he still might make a few tweaks before the final go.

“This play wasn’t figured out on Day 1, and everyone stuck it out and kept an open mind,” he said.

“I’m shocked,” Curtiss said of the winning. “Not surprised, but just kind of tickled. Going four times in the past five years is amazing, and it’s quite an accomplishment for this school.”

The drama department is looking for the community’s help in funding the trip. It costs about $10,000, half covered by department funds, Curtiss said [see box for detail.]

“This is money that directly supports the kids,” Curtiss said. “It helps them get out of Milton and see what’s going on outside of our state.”

Support MHS Drama

Help fund MHS Drama’s trip to New Englands next week:

Thursday, 4/10, 7 p.m. Community showing, MHS auditorium. Includes by-donation admission and two raffles.
Saturday, 4/12, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Bottle drive, Jolley Shortstop, Route 7
Sunday, 4/13, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Car wash, Four Seasons Real Estate, Route 7