Review: Massachusetts High School Drama Festival

Paul Miller-Schmidt and Ella Kitterman

Chuck (sophomore Jacob Zachary-Flanders) and Dan Daniels (senior Max Murphy) consult with Carol Vigoda (sophomore Noa Petler) about restoring the sarcophagus. PAUL MILLER-SCHMIDT / SAGAMORE STAFF

The audience laughed once again as Chuck, played by sophomore Jacob Zachary Flanders, caught a lightsaber in mid air to fight his adversary, the reincarnated King Tut, played by senior Josh Grosman, as the Star Wars theme score played in the distance.

The Massachusetts High School Festival preliminaries were held at the high school on Saturday, Feb. 27..  Students from schools all over Massachusetts came to perform their one-act plays in front of judges, with the hopes of advancing to the semi-finals held in different districts around Massachusetts. The high school was fifth to perform with their student run play “Catutstrophe”. Although it did not deal with many serious issues as some of the other plays, it exemplified good humor and surely pleased the audience.

The high school’s play, “Catutstrophe,” opened on the New England Museum of Art in modern day, on a work room with staff tirelessly preparing the museum for the upcoming King Tut exhibit. Right in the middle of the stage sat a large wooden box with two bold words printed in front, “Cairo Museum.” Inside lay the carcass of the ruler of Ancient Egypt, King Tut.  

The humor carried throughout the play was expressed right away, when the one of the exhibitions handlers, Rosalina Muñez, played by junior Miki Lazowski, started ranting about her frustrations in Spanish, swearing once or twice.

Maintenance Director Charles Wright and Art Restorer Alex Naghibi, played by sophomore Jacob Zachary-Flanders and senior Maeve Forti, had an interesting and funny, romantic connection that was hidden by both characters’ timidity.

Preston Partridge the Head Curator of the Modern Wing, played by sophomore Phineas Hillard, had a crush of his own on Alex. Partridge, one of the main villains, had an interesting and obscure accent, and captivated the audience with his arrogant attitude.

Second photo: Alex Naghibi (senior Maeve Forti) and Joyce Abbott (sophomore Emily Gerson) joke about Chuck (Jacob Zachary-Flanders) and his reluctance to ask her out.

King Tut, played by senior Josh Grossman, was released from the underworld when Chuck accidentally broke off the sarcophagus beard. Seeking his long lost love, Ankhesenamun, Tut takes Preston under his control and sends him after Alex, who bears a resemblance to Ankhesenamun.  Tut, shirtless with scorpion tattoos and carpeted with blue and gold attire, amused the audience with his humor and powerful speech.

Sophomore Noa Petler had a standout performance with her role as Carol Vigoda, the Head of Visitor Services. The “oda” in the character’s last name was not act of chance, since her lines and performance drew a very close resemblance to Yoda, as the show continued its use of a Star Wars theme. Petler’s voice wavered and hands shook as she amused the audience with her humorous language.

The great use of background noises and special effects greatly added to the humorous tone of the story. When Chuck pulled off the beard of the sarcophagus of King Tut, the sound thunder filled the room.  Immediately when the beard was reconnected, all was quieted.  This pattern continued a few times, and caused much laughter among the audience.

There was a stark contrast between the light humor from the high school’s “Cautustrophe” and the serious short play, “These Shining Lives,” that followed it. “These Shining Lives” was performed by Melrose High School, and dealt with the serious issue of women workers’ rights violations in the early 1900s. Based on a true story of four women, poisoned by radium in the workplace, had died from exposure.To perform their job well, they were taught a method which involved ingesting a radium powder, a substance known to the company to be dangerous.  

“Find Me,” performed by East Boston High School,  featured a wide array of stories from all walks of life. The play, written by Dennis Bush, showed six snapshots into different character’s lives that each gave a different narrative of how they felt alone and powerless.

Reginald Stamford (sophomore Nathaniel Liberman) lectures staff to be on their best behavior when the Cairo Museum Dignitary (junior Kayla McKeon) comes to visit.

After, came “The Staggering Heartbreak of Jasmine Merriweather,” written by Don Zolidis and performed by Arlington Catholic Drama Club. This piece resembled the Jeff Kinney novel Diary of a Wimpy Kid with a set composed of note paper patterned objects and a plot that followed a regular teenage girl, classic teenage romanticism and her struggle through adolescence.

Though the Massachussetts Educational Theater Guild High School Drama Festival may have been the preliminary round of a much larger competition, the excitement and effort was palpable and invigorated the audience throughout the day. Each mood and tone of the immensely disparate performances captured the viewers and engaged them in their own magical and inspiring way.