Stage 32 Ready to Go
Theater isn’t only about acting. It’s also about working together, applying technical knowledge, and taking risks. The kids who took theater classes this year at U-32 High School learned those things—and more—from a number of artists.
Erin Galligan-Baldwin is U-32’s theater director and one of the performing arts faculty. Throughout the 2014-15 school year, she brought in personnel from the nearby Lost Nation Theater to teach the students about lighting, hosted a number of artists from around New England to be a part of Theater Lab, and had theater arts educator Cher Laston as a guest director. Now, Erin and a Vermont playwright, Mary Beth McNulty, are helping students develop an original play called “Baggage.”
Early in the year, Erin used an Artist in Schools Grant to hire Wendy Stephens, a professional lighting designer, and Kris Weir, a professional stage manager. Both are from the nearby Lost Nation Theater and served as artists in residence as the students were getting ready to perform “Once on This Island.” After that production, Erin submitted a final report to the Council. In that document, she praised the work of the resident artists. She wrote: “Their knowledge and expertise about lighting and stage managing helped bring our production to a whole new level.” She also mentioned, “the lighting students specifically benefited as they learned how to better hang and focus a show and program lights.” Photographs taken at the production echoed every word written by Erin.
The school year ended, but theater did not. One group of students is headed for the Fringe Festival. Yes, THE Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland to perform their new play. Three young actors from U-32 wrote scenes or monologues that are included in the final script of “Baggage.” All of the students offered suggestions to improve the story as it evolved.
“Baggage” is about foster children; it is not light. In an early rehearsal, Mary Beth had students make one large pile with their backpacks. The packs were used as baggage as they began blocking some of the scenes. The female lead interacted repeatedly with the bags. As other students moved about, she was burdened and unburdened by the weight. Sometimes, she carried the baggage. Other times, she stepped over it, dropped it angrily, rearranged the weight of it, and so on. The metaphor is powerful.
Collaborations don’t end with teaching artists. Several parents are helping with fundraising and planning for the upcoming Scotland trip. Sue Verchereau is support staff to Theater at U-32 and Erin’s co-leader. In all, nine chaperones—parents, a U-32 teacher and administrators—will travel with the group and will have parts in the play as some of the adult characters. Erin described the parents acting as “a great way to get them even more involved.”
See the Play/Support the Program
See “Baggage” July 24 at 7 p.m. in the theater at U-32. Admission is by donation, and all proceeds benefit the students’ trip. Or, see it August 7-9 at 11:40 a.m. in theSpaceUK @ Surgeons Hall in Edinburgh. Admission is £6.00.