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"Seussification" makes it to NE Drama Festival

The entire Gilford High School cast of “Seussification” poses at the conclusion of their first alternate ending during rehearsal time on Monday in preparation for the New England Drama Festival this weekend. (Lauren Tiner) (click for larger version)
April 13, 2011
The combination of a tight knit cast and the witty, humorous play "The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet" has helped revamp the Gilford High School theatre department.

While GHS cast members were thrilled to hear their winning performance slam dunked the regional competition, bumping them up to the state level, members became teary eyed and mystified after learning "Seussifiction" had qualified for the New England Drama Festival - the highest honor that a cast can receive within the festival.

While GHS students competed in both the regional and state level, the New England festival, located in Andover, Mass. this weekend, will serve as a showcase for students.

Since hearing the news, cast members have been hard at work perfecting and tightening up their performance during rehearsal time.

Cast members look on in horror at a seemingly “dead” Juliet during rehearsal time. (Lauren Tiner) (click for larger version)
According to "Seussification" Director and Gilford teacher Matt Finch, students have qualified for the New England Festival for the third time in GHS history. Students first qualified for the festival in 1988, then in 2000, and now in 2011.

"This is the third time in school history, so this is a big deal," said Finch. "We leave at 9 a.m. on Saturday and perform at 9 p.m. that night – the last play in the show. Then, we come back on Monday after seeing the other shows and going to workshops."

Plymouth also qualified for the New England festival this year, and will help represent New Hampshire theatre this coming weekend during the first performance at the festival.

"We got as far as we could possibly go. After winning the state championship, we are one out of 12 other schools in New England performing this weekend. That's a great honor," said Finch.

During the state festival, GHS was also recognized for a set award, originally designed by student Max Fischer. Senior Kelly Welch, playing the role of the nurse, was also named state standout performer, although Finch said the greatest award was watching the entire ensemble move on together.

Juliet, played by junior Shannon McQueen, laments in her bedroom during a scene in “Seussification,” which has earned itself a spot at the New England Drama Festival this weekend. (Lauren Tiner) (click for larger version)
Now that GHS also has more time to perfect and showcase their performance, the cast will perform not only the first optional ending (performed at states), but also the second optional ending, which no audience member has yet witnessed.

During the first optional ending, cast members will perform the entire play over again in fast motion. In the second optional ending, following the first ending, cast members will perform the entire play backwards, in just nanoseconds.

"We are working on blocking and tightening up a bit. We are excited to perform the entire ending in the New England show. This is a big payoff for all the work we put in this year, and in the past four years, for the talented seniors," said Finch. "This is bittersweet for our seniors. It's their last show, yet the success of the group has brought them together even more so. There have been lots of laughs and lots of tears. We will miss this show."

Thanks to the success of "Seussification," Finch hopes the show will bring more students into the program, and also give actors a fresh perspective on plays. While "Seussification" is not a musical, it has musical like qualities, but does not require prime vocal qualities to join the cast.

GHS sophomore Grace McLaughlin, who performs the prologue, said that while she has played "The Cat in the Hat" in "Seussical," performing in this most recent play has still been a unique experience for her.

"This has definitely been different this year. I have never been in the spring festival before, so this was a new experience for me altogether. I was super pumped to hear we made it to states. When I heard about the New England festival, I just started to cry, I was so happy," said McLaughlin. "We had seen a couple other great plays. It was emotional for the cast, and we were all really excited."

While McLaughlin said she knew her GHS cast was worthy of New England status, it was still a pleasant surprise to learn that their particular cast stood out from several other strong performances.

"This play is different from a musical, yet I find that scenes and certain numbers still get stuck in my head," said McLaughlin. "I think our togetherness brought us to the state and New England level. We are all really close, and welcomed new cast members with open arms."

Both sophomore narrator Mary Raus and fellow cast member, freshman Sarah Cook, attributed much of their success to a close crew and inspiring senior cast members.

"I was in total, complete excitement when I heard we were going to the New England festival. The seniors this year were very supporting, and helped lead the cast and encouraged as to perform at our best level," said Raus. "This play is just so fun, zany, and off-the-wall, yet it's not over the top. All ages can enjoy the show and its high energy."

Cook said she is just plain excited to perform "Seussification" once again for a crowd.

"I am so excited I get to do it again. The play is so fun, and just when you think it's over, you move on to the next level and get to perform again," said Cook. "Everyone has really pulled their weight and totally committed to the play. There is no weak link in this cast."

Judges at the festival did, in fact, praise the GHS cast, stating that not one actor had to carry the performance, but that the cast carried the performance together as a well-organized, talented ensemble.

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