Almost play season: students audition for “Almost Maine”

Emily Shi, Staff Writer

This week, students have begun preparing themselves as auditions begin for the Middle Division Winter Play, “Almost, Maine,” by John Cariani, which will be performed three times at the beginning of December.

“I didn’t know this when I chose the play, but it’s actually one of the most widely produced plays in middle schools, Theater Teacher Haila VanHentenryck said.“I really liked the story, characters, and structure.”

The play tells the story of ten minutes in the lives of different residents of Almost, Maine, a small fictional town located in Northern Maine. All of the characters have substantial speaking roles, as the story is told through different ten-minute vignettes, Bailey Hecht (8) said.

“This play is a learning experience for me, being a new faculty member here, so I want to definitely learn a lot about the process of directing a play at Horace Mann. I hope that the people in the cast have a fun and enjoyable experience of doing the play,” VanHentenryck said.

According to Ross Petras (7), MD students at the school can relate to central themes of the “Almost, Maine.” “It includes people awkwardly talking and going out on dates, which happens a lot in middle school,” he said.

Roles in this play can present a challenge to middle school students when they embody real characters who are in love. “Acting in love on stage is desired by some and feared by many,” VanHentenryck said. “Allowing yourself to feel as the character is hard for middle schoolers.”

Nikita Pande (6) believes that challenges in this year’s play will be a good opportunity for her to have a more professional experience in theater, she said.

During auditions this week, VanHentenryck is searching for a group of middle schoolers who can relate to other people, take risks, embody ideas, and work well with others, she said.

This year, auditions allow the students to work with others as opposed to past years, where solo auditions were held. “I was a lot more nervous in sixth grade, as it’s easier for me to work with other people than doing solo auditions,” Petras said.

Hecht, who has been in the MD play before, has had a positive experience in her sixth and seventh grade years, she said. This year, she is planning on auditioning for a character name Gory, who searches for her husband. “I’d love to get any character, but I feel like this role is the most human character that I can closely relate to,” she said.

“Hopefully I’ll have a decision by this weekend so that I can email the cast and prepare for our first rehearsal,” VanHentenryck said. Once the cast is determined, rehearsals will be held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after school from 3:20 to 5:20 PM.

The play this year features main characters as well as an ensemble, which is different from how the play is usually produced, Hecht said.

“I want to have something after school that I can look forward to,” Pande said. “I came from the lower division, and I don’t know everyone here, so I if there are new kids in the play I can get to know them better because we have to rely on each other and be a team,” she said. 

Petras is excited for the first performance so that the team can finally see the product of their rehearsals, he said.

“I’m really happy that Horace Mann has the option to do theater and I’m super excited to improve on my acting skills,” Pande said.