The Mt. Hope Masqueraders is set to perform their first Fall Play since the pandemic began last March.
Does the holiday season force you into facing an existential crisis about your place in the world? Do you feel like a family dinner more resembles a high-stress press conference or a heavyweight verbal boxing match? Does the expectation of putting on a “perfect” dinner cause your blood pressure to spike during what should be the most joyous time of year?
Those themes resonate with many during this time of year, and they’re the focus of a series of short plays being put together by the Mt. Hope Masqueraders for their first Fall Play since the pandemic began last March. It will also be the first performance since the school faced the threat of losing its theatre program entirely during the most recent budget season.
The show runs Nov. 18-20 at 7 p.m. with an additional matinee on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.
New theatre director Sarah Ploskina, who came to Mt. Hope this year after previously working with the Emerson College Theatre Program, said that the kids are taking the challenges associated with performing in the pandemic era in stride. They have to wear masks and will be performing for a very limited audience, mostly comprised of fellow students and family members. Still, it hasn’t dampened their motivation, she said.
“I think their enthusiasm for being back to performing has sort of insulated the group from getting down about any one type of adjustment we have to make, but it is challenging,” Ploskina said. “It adds to what is already a challenging process, which is getting a pretty large group of performers with a wide variety of experience and skills across the finish line in that limited amount of time.”
The play will encompass four shows, all focused around family gatherings during the holiday season — a topical theme for sure, considering many families may be able to gather once more this year, as opposed to the 2020 season.
‘Family Dinner,’ written by Sarah Cho and directed by Ploskina, features a dysfunctional family battling it out at the dinner table, forcing one member to wonder if they’re better off somewhere else.
‘Talking Points,’ written by Steven Hayet and directed by senior Julia Cabral, takes a creative approach to the interrogation-style questioning that can happen when a family member has news to share during the holidays, such as a recent breakup.
‘Gobbler,’ written by Matthew Weaver and directed by senior Sophia Ferolito, follows the existential crises experienced by a group of turkeys who recently loss another friend to Thanksgiving dinner.
‘Mom’s ham,’ written by Rachel Bublitz and also directed by senior Julia Cabral, is a 10-minute version of Charles Dickens’ classic “Christmas Carol”, featuring a woman’s frantic attempt to create the perfect Christmas dinner in honor of her late mother.
“Rehearsals have been shaping up well, especially for the student directed pieces,” Ploskina said. “Those directors have really stepped forward and taken a lot of leadership. There’s a strong core of seniors who are extremely motivated by the fact that they missed their live performance opportunities from last year. A lot of leadership and camaraderie among that group.”
Ploskina is navigating some challenges of her own. While the theatre director position was ultimately saved during the budget crunch, it was shaved down to a 2/5 full-time equivalent position. Like the students, Ploskina is taking everything in stride while acknowledging the difficulties.
“For me, it’s hard to strike that balance of putting in the time, effort and energy required of me on paper and what I really see as how I want to contribute. Those things are pretty far apart,” she said. “I think I am much more focused on keeping our eyes on the big picture and really focusing students on their time together, connections together, making sure everyone is having a positive experience. Even though that was always a big priority for me, I think it’s even more crucial now beyond what the end product look likes.”
Coming from higher education, Ploskina said it was refreshing to get back into a creative mindset with high school performers.
“I really missed the energy and imagination that high school students bring to a project,” she said. “Just the fact that we can come together and create some type of art and present it for some of the community to receive it, it’s a good back to basics moment.”
Full cast list:
Family Dinner (by Sarah Cho)
Director: Sarah Ploskina
Cast: Jane - Victor Bullard; Anna - Emily Marino; Kirk - Jeffrey Gonzalez; Mom - Taylor Mason; Grandma - Parker Correll; Aunt - Ella Alves; Delivery person - Adriana Francis
Talking Points (by Steven Hayet)
Director: Julia Cabral ‘22
Cast: Mike - Liam Reich; Mom - Mariah Rogers; Dad - Mia Shaw; Grandpa - Sam Szeliga; Sam - Amani Jackson; Grandma - Arabella Pichette
Mom’s Ham (by Rachel Bublitz)
Director: Julia Cabral ‘22
Cast: Mom - Sophia Ferolito; Das - Mia Shaw; Aunt - Seren Davies; Phoebe - Arabella Pichette; Eric - Mariah Rogers; Santa - Amani Jackson
Gobbler (by Matthew Weaver)
Director: Sophia Ferolito ‘22
Cast: Gobbler - Luciano Camara; Macaroni - Brenna Towey; Spumoni - Casey Little
Technical team: Technical Director - Jacob Perry; Assistant Technical Director / Sound - Joseph Ricci; Stage Manager - Romi Jordan; Assistant Stage Manager - Edda Petrillo; Light Board Operator - James Faulkner; Backstage Crew - Aiden Enes, Julia Cabral; Properties - Taylor Mason; Costumes - Jeffrey Gonzalez; Fall Play Program Director - Sarah Ploskina