BOSTON -- Local students will hit the Boston stage this weekend in the finals for the 83rd annual Massachusetts High School Drama Festival, presented by the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild.
Throughout March, the festival features 115 one-act plays (40 minutes maximum) produced by its member high schools competing against each other in preliminary and semi-final rounds to get the chance to compete in the state finals, which will be held Thursday, March 27, to Saturday, March 29, at the Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St.
"The festival's great," said Peter Donahue, a Lowell native and senior at St. John's Prepatory School, which will present bobrauschenbergamerica on Thursday at 8 p.m. "You go to these sites and they're these huge populations of people who love what you love and are brought together by theater."
Alicia Greenwood, who graduated from Lowell High School in 1998, has headed the St. John's program for the last seven years. St. John's is a consistent performer at the festival (the school has won the past two years), which Greenwood attributes to challenging her students. bobrauschenbergamerica, an absurdist, non-linear play, fits that bill.
"I picked it because it was something different and a little more sophisticated, which is good because I really want the kids to push themselves," said Greenwood.
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School performs Friday at 1 p.m., presenting Paper Stars, an examination of bipolar disorder, set in an asylum that was written and directed by students David Nicholson and Rachel Karp.
"It's heartfelt and funny, and shockingly well-written and directed," said Linda Potter, director of the student theater program, Proscenium Circus. "The kids love the festival. It's good for them to see a variety of plays in one day and be able to learn and compare and contrast between them."
Westford Academy will put on its play, My Name is Asher Lev, on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. According to program director Michael Towers, the play, set in a Hasidic Jewish community in 1950s Brooklyn, asks the question, "Can I be an artist, or should I deny my art?"
"It's a beautiful play where a teen continues to explore whether he can be both a Hasidic Jew and a painter," said Towers. "I've asked the students in class what it is in their life they want to do that they feel they cannot do. It's been a wonderful exercise for us."
Towers said his group of 70 students, who handle everything from lighting to costumes, will see all 13 finalist plays this weekend.
"What I've found is that the best theater in the country is in New England, particularly Massachusetts," said Towers. "And the saying of this festival is to stop calling what we're watching 'high school theater' -- just call it 'theater.' "
Single tickets to shows at the festival cost $10 each, while tickets to multiple-play sessions start at $20. For information, visit metg.org/festival/h-s-festival.
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