By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — When was the last time you went to a play? If you can't remember, or if the answer is so long ago that you'd rather not say, then you've got the perfect chance to remedy that problem by attending the New Hampshire Educational Theatre Guild's Regional Drama Festival being held all day Saturday at Laconia High School.
Amy Babcock, who recently assumed the role of theater director for LHS, said she hopes that by hosting the festival, Laconia will usher in a renewed interest in the performing arts, especially when the performers are young city residents.
"I hope this is the start of really big things for the theater program," said Babcock.
Eight New Hampshire high schools are scheduled to perform short plays, grouped into morning, afternoon and evening blocks. Members of the public can buy tickets to just one of the blocks, or can buy a pass for a full day of drama.
Judges will critique each performance, with the most cohesive, best acted and most technically proficient plays selected to advance to the state drama festival.
Laconia's entry will be two short plays selected out of the David Ives collection titled "Mere Mortals." Laconia students performed most of the plays in the collection earlier this school year. The first of the two they will perform at the festival is Dr. Fritz, which Babcock said is an abstract, Vaudeville-style play highlighting two talented actors.
"It's very funny, a very entertaining show," said Babcock.
The other Laconia entry is "Degas C'est Moi," which follows the story of a man who wakes up one day and decides to spend the rest of the day as 19th century artist Edgar Degas. Each of the two plays probes the question of whether one has control over his or her own life, or if one's fate is predestined. About 15 LHS students are involved in the production of the two short plays.
For his first drama festival, Plymouth Regional High School's new Theater Director Frank Stetson wanted to pick something his students would relate to, so he picked Ian McWethy's play, "The Internet is Distract –– OH LOOK A KITTEN!" The show dramatizes a student's last-minute quest to check a few facts for a report, only to have her research sidetracked by the attention-stealers of the online world.
"It is a one-act comedy about the pitfalls of modern-day Internet and how it affects our everyday life," said Stetson, who also works as the school's information technology director. His students don't know a life before the Internet, and some of them are only truly disconnected from the online world when their phone battery dies.
"I felt the kids would be able to relate to it," Stetson said. He has a cast of nine students, and for some of them, acting in a comedy offered a new challenge. They learned how to time their laugh lines, and how to play off the performances of the other actors on stage.
The students from Kingswood Regional High School will find themselves performing with actors both onstage and off, as their production, "Midsummer Night's Dream: The Movie" incorporates multimedia elements along with live actors.
Scott Giessler, Kingswood theater director, said the script is a 35-minute adaptation of the Shakespearean play. The language remains unchanged, but the setting is in Hollywood, and the characters are modern-day "starlets."
"Speaking as an educator, it's a fantastic tool. You're giving them the original Shakespeare, but you're giving them something to grasp on to," said Giessler. His cast includes 25 students, including Kyleigh Moore, who is serving as technical director, an especially daunting role for this production. Moore is in charge of lighting, sound and training the crew, and she's also overseeing the shooting and projecting of video footage, which will be part of the live performance. Some of the video footage is pre-recorded, but some will be shot live during the play and projected onto the stage.
"She's done a terrific job with it," Giessler said of Moore. "There's a lot of moving parts."
Tickets for the drama festival can be purchased at the door for $15 for the full day, or $7 for a single block. The first block begins at 9:15 a.m. and includes Gilford, Plymouth and Moultonborough Academy. Block II features Stevens High School, Newport Middle & High School and Laconia, and begins at 2:20 p.m. Block III begins at 7:30 p.m. and includes Profile School and Kingswood.
Babcock would like to see the auditorium filled with local residents, who come out to encourage and celebrate their young and talented neighbors.
"It's something that I would love to see improved in Laconia – more interest, more support in general for the arts. I would love to see more people choose to come out and see theatrical productions," said Babcock.
9:15 a.m. Introductions Block I
9:20 a.m. Epic Proportions- Gilford High School
10:15 a.m. The Internet is Distract- Oh Look A Kitten!- Plymouth Regional High School
11:10 a.m. Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit- Moultonborough Academy
2:20 p.m. Introductions Block II
2:25 p.m. Hamlet II (Better Than The Original) - Stevens High School
3:20 p.m. The Door- Newport Middle-High School
4:15 p.m. Mere Mortals - Laconia High School
7:30 p.m. Introductions Block III
7:35 p.m. Almost Hamlet - Profile School
8:30 p.m. Midsummer Night's Dream: The Movie - Kingswood Regional High School
Tickets can be purchased at the door. Cost: $7/block $15/full day
Be sure to arrive 15 minutes before each block is scheduled to begin.