By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Students from 116 high schools presented one-act plays in the March 2 preliminary round of the 82nd annual Massachusetts High School Drama Festival. Judges chose 42 schools to progress to the March 9 semifinals, where the highest-scoring 14 schools were named the State Finalists. Productions from those schools were performed March 21 through 23 at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston.
Honored as a State Finalist was the cast and crew of students from Shrewsbury High School (SHS), directed by Jenifer Micarelli-Webb, a teacher in the music and theater department.
“What you'se aiming for is to be one of the schools with the top 14 shows to go to Boston,” she said.
The SHS entry was an adaptation of the full-length play “What I Did Last Summer” by A.R. Gurney, trimmed to the competition's required length of 40 minutes. Rehearsals began early December 2012 and continued through February.
For the preliminary round, the 116 schools participated at 14 sites throughout the state. Eight schools competed at each location, with three picked to progress. SHS performed at the preliminary hosted by Brookline High School, and then advanced to the regional semifinals at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River.
“It was one of the best performances they gave,” Micarelli-Webb said of their semifinals effort. “They put their hearts out on the stage and really lived their truth moment to moment. As one of the judges said to them, “You hit a homerun!””
They had only two weeks to rehearse before travelling to Boston for the state finals. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn's cooperate.
“All of Massachusetts had snow days, so the 14 schools had the same problem,” Micarelli-Webb said. “Those two weeks are meant to take the judges” notes from semifinals and rework what needs to be reworked, which you can do in a two-week period, but it becomes more difficult with snow days.”
Weather improved for the three-day festival. Students from each school were able to view each other's performances.
“The students get exposed to a variety of theater done by the other schools,” Micarelli-Webb explained. “That's so important for them to see what others do. I believe that's part of the growing and learning process. Being a part of this festival allows them to acquire a skill they otherwise wouldn's get in high school.”
While the cast and crew members spanned from freshmen to seniors, Micarelli-Webb noted the majority were upperclassmen.
“I worked with most of the students last year and we really formed a nice, close bond,” she said. “I'se enjoyed their energy, their drive and their passion to really bring good theater to the stage.”
The cast featured Nick Andreano, a senior; Kelcie Fay, a junior; Zack Georgian, a senior; Abbey May, a senior; Emily Ryan, a senior; and Megan Wilson, a sophomore. The crew included Gracie Carleton, a junior; Tori Cullen, a sophomore; Doug Fisher, a freshman; James Kuhtreiber, a senior; Shivani Kumar, a junior; Stan Pearson, a freshman; and Kira Sommer, a junior.
This was the fifth year SHS participated in the festival, each time under the direction of Micarelli-Webb.
“We went from not having a competition team, to now when we have a production produced by the music and theater department,” she said. “The first year, we made it to the preliminary round. The next two years, we made it into the semifinals. Then last year and again this year, we made it into the state finals. To make it from being unknown to the state finals within a four-year span is almost most unheard of – it's a huge accomplishment.”