The South Lakes High School Theatre Department’s fall production, Almost Maine, is an ensemble piece featuring 18 actors in nine mini-plays.
Director Maria Harris, who heads the department, wanted to emphasize to the student body that an ensemble means everyone is featured. So Harris and the actors will depart from the school’s usual practice of having the students come into the auditorium for a sneak preview of the show, which opens Thursday.
“I want for all of the actors to be focused on, not just two or three,” Harris said this week. “So we’re doing something a little different. We’re going into classrooms, as many as have invited us, to play a scene.”
In each classroom, students will see a different pairing of actors and a different scene from one of the mini-plays.
Almost, Maine by John Cariani ties nine stories together by setting them all in one mythical place, the town of “Almost,” in Maine. The other constant on the stage is a man (played by senior Ben Cohn), bundled up in winter clothes, sitting on a park bench. Each time a new mini-play ends, he arises and flips a story board that announces the name of the next mini-play. Then he returns to his bench and stretches out.
Harris said the play, which is highly popular now on the theater circuit, appealed to her for several reasons: the ensemble cast, which gives many actors a chance to shine without over-taxing them; the relative simplicity of the set design (a beautiful starry night), and its theme of love.
“Every play is the story of when you meet somebody and you know this might be the person,” Harris said. “At the same time the stories are humorous, and some are a little sad.”
She said she has dedicated the show to her parents, and her aunt and uncle, married 60 and 70 years, respectively.
Harris said a show about nine couples in various stages of love does present a challenge when working with high school students. She made some adaptations given the ages and maturity levels of her actors and a student audience.
“There are some words I’ll allow and others I absolutely won’t allow,” Harris said. “And I told them, ‘We’re going to cut down on some of the kissing.’”
Almost, Maine opens tonight at South Lakes’ Little Theatre, 11400 South Lakes Dr., Reston. The show begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 and Friday, Nov. 18. On Saturday, Nov. 19, the show will run twice, at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For more information, or to purchase, visit www.southlakesdrama.com