By Nan Lincoln
Special to the Islander
BAR HARBOR — It has been two years since our area high schools have been able to perform on stage for a live audience, but it appears that they have lost none of their creative edge. Both Mount Desert Island High School and Ellsworth High School, each of which hosted a section of the Maine State Drama Fest last weekend, have taken top honors for their riveting one-act performances of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and the original, student-written “Slipping,” by Madeline Henry, respectively.
Mount Desert Island High
“One thing you can count on from MDI is that each year brings a new genre of storytelling,” commented one judge praising the “creep, funhouse” vibe of MDI High School’s “Metamorphosis.”
Judges were especially impressed by Ly Dillon’s portrayal of the hapless Gregor who wakes up one morning to discover he has been transformed into a cockroach.
“A performance like this with such intense physicality is something to behold,” judge Reed Farrar wrote. “It reminds one of performances of ‘The Elephant Man.’ It must have been physically and mentally grueling. Honestly, he stole the show and every moment he moved I could not take my eyes off him.”
Dillon, along with cast mates Rex DeMuro, Mia Eason and Hayden Braun, were named to All Festival cast.
The ensemble acting award went to Bryce MacGregor, Eva Crikelair, Alifair Durand and Ly Dillon, while Ryder Haines, Isa Raven and Matthew Wheeler took top honors for their multimedia visuals. The play’s distorted set design and construction was a winner, too, for Zoë Eason, Tessa Sanborn and Avery Preston-Schreck, and Aidan Fisichella received a special commendation for his spot on “insect” sound accompaniment.
“It makes me sad that ‘Kafka’s Metamorphosis’ is over,” commented director Casey Rush on social media. “I’m also sad because there’s no opportunity to advance to States in this year’s festival, as [this] is a production worthy of such honor. It has been a privilege to work with this passionate, kind, creative, dedicated and disciplined group of young people over the past few months… As always, I look forward to what 2023 will bring.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Ellsworth High School director Jasmine Ireland, who will be saying farewell to several seniors this year, including multitalented Madeline Henry, who received well-deserved multiple awards and commendations for her play, “Slipping,” a dark fable about a broken family that begins to heal after an encounter with faerie folk and a mysterious changeling.
Henry wrote her play as a senior “Capstone” project for the school’s Academy of Performing Arts. Not only did the young playwright’s effort score top honors for her school, but she also took home an All Festival cast award for her portrayal of the changeling girl, Casia, and another victory for her excellent costume design and for her overall artistic vision, which included the set design.
As if that weren’t enough accolades for the talented young woman, during the results announcement Sunday afternoon, Ireland tearfully surprised her student with a National Heart of the Arts award for her extraordinary contribution to the culture of her school. This was the first time a student-written play has won the regional round of the drama fest.
Another first was chalked up for the school’s tech team, which managed to roll out Joe Lewis’s realization of Henry’s set. The ensemble of Fey folk (Lindsay Cirard, Pine Hanson, Maeve Rodgers, Rylynn Clark and Felix Markosian) was also named to All Festival cast
A rather stunned Henry commented after an encore performance of “Slipping” Sunday afternoon what an exciting process it was seeing her work evolve from the page to the stage.