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A Daring Response In A Tumultous Time: On York Prep Drama Club’s production of Almost, Maine by John Cariani

by
John Viscardi (Full disclosure – Again, I directed the play, so…yeah)

My favorite quote from John Cariani, the playwright of Almost, Maine, is a bit of advice he gives to all producing the play at the beginning of the hard copy. He talks about the tight rope the director and actors have to walk in making the play work. “Don’t telegraph”, he writes. “Keep the surprises alive, and…If you don’t succeed in this – then Almost, Maine will languish in corny sentimentality. And it will be bad. Because this play (and this is the part I love) is almost bad”. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty funny, as well as courageous to admit about your own play. But the point is: “corny” is tough in this day and age to pull off. And this play is about tender love in all its wonder, magic and heartache. And, that’s just not an easy sell in today’s culture.

In our program for Almost, Maine I wrote “Love requires a courage to open one’s heart to the world; it requires an analog intimacy that is currently too often dulled by its digital counterpart”. And therein lies the daring part: to produce, via John Cariani’s play, on stage and in our student performers and tech crew, a tenderness that we felt was there, but feared might be too beaten down as a result of this divisive and insensitive time in which we live.
 
But we were surprised by the capacity of our students to embrace such profound emotions. Indeed, we had students on stage playing a married couple opining over their lost love after dedicating a life to raising children, and it was both painful and heartwarming. Not once did anyone question that relationship. These were no longer students at York, but characters in a play. And this is a tribute to them; our students, because each of them accomplished that on stage, shedding their cultural armor and inviting us in, so to speak.
 
They are a wondrous band of artists and individuals, our students, your children. Kudos to you. They are bright, curious and courageous, and they grew up, just a little bit, right before our eyes on stage. And we couldn’t be prouder. And, here’s the kicker! We even dared to open with a tender, lyrical dance! A three and a half minute wisp of grace fusing Modern and Ballet performed by our very own York Prep Dancers. And the audiences seemed to love it. And by “audiences” we mean the middle school, upper school and adults. We appeared to have crossed all generational gaps. And if that doesn’t speak volumes about the need, and capacity, of our youth to relate to one another, I’m not sure what else does. Thank you for your support.
 
The students share their experiences working on the production:
 
“Almost, Maine was so amazing because it really let all the actors shine. There were no leads per se but we all got to be leads in our scene. I felt as though I grew so much”
-Leila Robb, 11th Grade, played Marci in two of the performances
 
“Almost, Maine was a great show. I was surprised about how well it turned out considering what initially appeared to be a small cast and many different scenes that required different settings. But it worked great and a lot of people were involved and, honestly, it was the most fun I’ve ever had on stage”.
-David Scheuer, 11th grade, played Phil
 
“This was my first performance with York and even though it was hard work, I had a great time. What I loved most was how close of friends my scene partners and I became while working on our scene together!”
-Remi Young, 9th Grade, played Villian in two of the performances
 
Almost, Maine was such a fun show! I loved my scene, but even more I enjoyed watching everyone do what they love!”
-Rehannah Baksh, 11th grade, played Marvelyn in two of the performances
 
A great experience and I would 100% do it again!”
-Kaia Seldman, 10th Grade, played Hope in two of the performances
 
The Full cast and crew were as follows:
 
THE YORK PREP DANCERS - Rehannah Baksh, Gabrielle Bolt, Elise Dickinson, Ella Hickman, Olivia Keiffer, Sophia Martinez, Leila Robb, Nicole Rashkover
 
PETE & GINETTE - Hector Serrano & Kimberly Pineda
GLORY & EAST - Sophia Olshaker & Ian Szigethy and Noah Lupowitz
JIMMY & SANDRINE & VILLIAN – Nicholas Spillum & Louise Wade & Aliyah Phillips & Erika Lampe & Remi Young
STEVE & MARVALYN – Robson Mathews & Rehannah Baksh & Elena Giddins GAYLE & LENDALL - Nicole Rashkover & Nataly Davison & Jack Flesher RANDY & CHAD – Robert Schofield III & Philip Winter
PHIL & MARCI – David Scheuer & Liza Suzanna & Leila Robb
HOPE & DANIEL - JessieJean Newman-Getzler & Kaia Seldman & William Miller & Jackson Kern & Jack Scher
RHONDA & DAVE – Hannah Sher & Ben Warshavsky
STAGE MANAGER – Sara Jane Mahoney
ASST. STAGE MANAGER - Kimberly Pineda
LIGHTING BOARD OPERATOR – Phoebe Unger
SOUND DESIGN - William Bowen
ASST. SOUND – Tristan Leonard
PROP MASTER - Daron Sklar
BACK STAGE – Graziana Rutigliano, McKayla Martin, Liam O’Malley, Lizbeth Ramirez, Daron Sklar, Melanie Fleming
FRONT OF HOUSE – Ava Hougie, Emily Murphy, Miles De La Toree
SET PAINTING – Karl Hartman, Miranda Catus, Ari Maitlin, Mikayla Pressley
 
DIRECTOR - John Viscardi
ASST. DIRECTORS - Sara Jane Mahoney & David Scheuer
CHOREOGRAPHERS - Fiona Hutchison, Lance Martin III
DANCE CAPTAIN - Rehannah Baksh
SET DESIGN – Karl Hartman, Gary Schwartz
COSTUMES – Kathy Kearns, Fiona Hutchison
WARDROBE MISTRESSES – Fiona Hutchison, Rehannah Baksh, Leila Robb. HAIR & MAKE-UP – Fiona Hutchison, Liam O’Malley, Melanie Fleming
BACK STAGE CREW CHIEF - Dr. Kaczynski
LIGHTING, AUDIO & CUSTOM PROP DESIGN - Michael Catalan
 
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