Alba Briggs was a bit awed Tuesday when he stood on the stage of the Gracie Theatre at Husson University.
“This makes it real,” Briggs, 19, of Lubec said. “The play’s three-dimensional now, not just industrial tape on the floor.”
That tape on the floor of the theater’s rehearsal space was how students in Ken Stack’s Acting II class at the New England School of Communication, located on Husson’s Bangor campus, knew where the set would be once they got onstage in the Gracie. Judging from Tuesday’s rehearsal, the cast’s first on the stage, they found the transition energizing.
Each year, Stack concludes his class with a performance workshop. This year, students are presenting a one-act version of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The play is an adaptation of Ken Kesey’s classic novel about men in a mental hospital in the Pacific Northwest. Jack Nicholson won an Oscar for his portrayal of Kesey’s hero Randle P. McMurphy in the 1975 film version.
This is the third year that Stack, a well-known director and actor in Bangor and Down East, has directed his Acting II class in a production. Stack has been working for the past three years to expand NESCom’s offerings to include the performing arts and backstage skills.
For the past two years, his students have staged one of William Shakespeare’s plays in Husson’s Kominsky Auditorium, which is more a lecture hall than a theater, according to Stack.
“That stage is the size of a dorm room,” Travis Sweet, 22, of Lebanon, N.H., said of the former performance space. “The Gracie is of professional caliber. This is a great improvement.”
Being able to perform in the Gracie, completed last year, also allowed students in the scenic construction class to build a small set for the production, Stack said. The fundamentals of stage lighting class designed the lighting plot and members of the cast found and recorded sound effects.
Pulling the show together has been challenging for some of the cast, who performed in Husson’s production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Stack said. It closed Sunday.
“Getting the lines down has been challenging,” Christine White, 20, of Londonderry, N.H., said. “It’s a lot to retain.”
White plays Nurse Ratched, the woman who tries to force McMurphy to conform to the hospital’s rules.
“Half the time I feel bad yelling at people,” White said. “The character lives in her own little world. She thinks she’s doing what’s best for the patients.”
Unlike his onstage nemesis, Ben Kelley, 22, of Bangor is relishing his turn as the rebel McMurphy.
“I actually like this role,” he said. “I saw the movie when I was 10, read the book when I was 14 and have been obsessed with it for a long time.”
Stack praised his cast for their commitment to working on an emotionally challenging production and performing it the week before finals.
“They’ve only rehearsed once a week for seven weeks,” he said. “I’ve been amazed at the energy they’ve brought to it each week.”
IF YOU GO
What: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
Adapted for the stage by Dale Wasserman
Who: New England School of Communication Acting II class
When: 7 p.m. today (Thursday, May 6)
Where: Gracie Theatre at Husson University in Bangor
Running time: 75 minutes without an intermission