The theater adage “What plays in Peoria doesn’t always play in New York” hit home for Brewer drama students this weekend when they finished eighth out of nine schools competing in the Class A finals of the 2009 Maine Drama Festival held Friday and Saturday at Bangor High School.
The winner for Class A was Falmouth High School performing “Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh,” while Lincoln Academy’s “Sonnets to Orpheus” was named the runner-up.
In the Class B finals, held over the weekend at Rockland District High School, Yarmouth won with “Shakespeare in Hollywood.” Cape Elizabeth High School’s “Of Mice and Men” was the runner-up.
Brewer had won the regional contest for Class A schools held March 6-7 at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor. Their entry, a comedy called “Day 6” about the difficulty God’s minions encountered in creating human beings, competed against eight other plays from around the state at Peakes Auditorium.
More than 3,000 Maine high school students from 79 high schools took part in the 78th annual competition, sponsored by the Maine Principals’ Association and the Maine Drama Council. At both the regional and state levels, a panel of three judges scores each production on elements from acting to costumes to sound. The play with the highest score wins.
Rich Kimball, who has coached drama in Brewer for more than a decade, said Sunday that competing is not the main reason he enters a play in the festival year after year.
“Any time you’re judged,” he said, “it’s awfully tough to go in there with a plan to win. I think the reason to go is for the students to have a good time, to put on an entertaining show and meet people who share the same interests they do. Anytime they do that, then, it’s a success.”
Kimball also doesn’t usually limit the number of students who can be involved. “Day 6” required a cast of 22. Several other students worked on the show behind the scenes.
Other schools took a different approach. Falmouth’s winning entry had a cast of four but a behind-the-scenes crew of more than 30.
Jamie Bartol, 18, of Brewer started working with Kimball and his Brewer Youth Theater 10 years ago. This year was the third time the senior has been in a play that went to the state finals.
In “Day 6,” Bartol played Nick, the head of the committee charged with the challenging task of creating human beings. He was awarded an All Festival Cast citation for his performance at the state final.
“The festival is a lot of fun,” he said Saturday about an hour before Brewer went onstage. “Here we see all the best shows and each one is very different.”
Erika Cote, 17 of Brewer played Female Prototype Number 4. A senior, she also has worked with Kimball for 10 years.
“You get to really know him,” she said of working with the director for so long, “and you get to know his [directing] process very well, so we understand what he wants.”
Kimball pointed out Sunday that by participating in the regional and state competitions, the students had seen 15 different plays in two weeks. It would be difficult for them to see that many different shows in a year without traveling outside of Maine, he said.
“Some of the seniors have seen 40 to 50 plays at festivals over last four years and they’ve met a lot of new people around the state that share their interests,” he said. “Sometimes, they find they have lot of other things in common too.”
That might be the secret ingredient the Committee to Design Human Beings was looking for in “Day 6.”
2009 Maine Drama Festival final standings and scores
1. Falmouth 251
2. Lincoln 250
3. Scarborough 226
4. Presque Isle 225
5. Skowhegan 224
6. Fryeburg 203
7. Marshwood 203
8. Brewer 197
9. South Portland 154
1. Yarmouth 294
2. Cape Elizabeth 289
3. Maine Central Institute, Pittsfield 263
4. Rockland 222
5. Fort Kent 209
6. Stearns- Schenck 206
7. Winthrop 199
8. Wiscasset 176
Disqualified: Ellsworth 248
For detailed results from the Maine Drama Council, go to www.fivetowns.net/subsites/StromAud/MDC/index.htm.