When a friend of Bangor resident Abby McCarthy told her she was gay but still was nervous about telling others, the 18-year-old’s brain started turning.
She said she was surprised that even in a fairly progressive place such as Maine her friend didn’t feel comfortable. That inspired her to write, cast and produce “A Work in Progress” during her senior year at Bangor High School.
For one night only, June 27, the Penobscot Theatre Company will host a performance of the play as part of Bangor’s Pride Festival. According to a press release from the theater, the play, set at a conversion therapy camp in the 1980s, “offers a satirical yet poignant look at LGBTQA youth struggling for identity and a sense of self-worth in light of well-meaning but misdirected friends, families and organizations.”
McCarthy, who graduated from Bangor High School last week, wrote the play and score as part of an independent study project with the direction of teachers Scott Burditt and Deborah Elz-Hammond. It debuted May 21 at Bangor High School, and McCarthy said it was well-received, particularly by students.
“I had a few people come up and tell me that some people were nay-saying it … but mostly it was positive,” she said.
The play caught the attention of Bari Newport, Penobscot Theatre Company producing artistic director, after several students performed songs at the theater’s open call audition. Newport had been looking for a play to host in collaboration with Bangor’s Live Out Loud Festival, and “A Work in Progress” fit the bill.
“Abby is a rising star, and we’re thrilled to support her extraordinary debut,” Newport said in a statement about the play. She added that while society has come a long way toward accepting people with different sexual orientations, there’s still more to be done.
“We’ve come a long way from the 1980s in many respects, but not so far as to render Abby’s message obsolete,” Newport said. “Her call for acceptance resonates along with her strikingly sophisticated compositions.”
The original cast of high school students and musicians will star in the Penobscot Theatre Company performance, however, staff at the theater will man the lights and stage production.
McCarthy said it’s sort of a dream come true to have the theater host a performance of her play, and it has helped her realize she wants to learn more about writing for theater.
“It’s kind of incredible. I’ve written songs for a while, but I’ve never put together a project of this magnitude,” she said. “The fact that a professional theater company is taking a look at it is really neat.”
McCarthy heads to State University of New York at Purchase to study studio composition in the fall and would like to focus on writing film scoring, songwriting and theatrical music writing.
The Penobscot Theatre Company will host “A Work in Progress” at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 27, at the Bangor Opera House, 131 Main St. The event is free and open to the public, but donations of $10 per person are encouraged.