Westminster’s Almost, Maine

With a unique vignette style and a mythical setting, the fall play for this semester Almost, Maine captured the attention of a large audience on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 when the Westminster players put on a spectacular show in Kellett Theatre.

     Almost, Maine is a collection of nine short stories compiled into a play following the hectic yet charming lives of the citizens of Almost, Maine, a quaint, fictional town. With a total of 11 scenes, the play encapsulates many aspects of life, including love and loss, in a concise yet profound way.

       Maggie Bailey, an Upper School English teacher, directed the show. She said, “I have directed Almost, Maine before, and it is definitely a favorite of mine. I love directing it because it is a great play for students to explore being vulnerable and funny but in the roles of different characters.”

     “This play is definitely a romantic comedy with the purpose being to bring light to people’s lives,” said assistant director Jennifer Finlayson. “It has a little bit of comedy, a little bit of love, and a bit of laughter.”

        Finlayson teaches Middle School theatre and used to teach high school theatre. She described Almost, Maine as an enjoyable way to dip her toes back into high school waters.

     In order to produce a pleasurable show, the Almost, Maine cast had afternoon rehearsals for a month.

      “A typical rehearsal consisted of circling up as a group at the beginning, playing a game, running specific scenes, and then a run through of the play as a group,” said freshman Anna Catherine Gansereit.

       She performed the part of Sandrine, a sensitive yet put together citizen of Almost, Maine. Being a freshman, this was Gansereit’s first Upper School play, and she described the experience as an amazing opportunity to develop her acting skills and be a part of a cast.

     For many actors at Westminster, acting gives them the chance to escape their own lives and essentially live another person’s life.

     “Being in Almost, Maine has been my second semester performing in the theater department,” said junior Eduardo Solis. “I don’t play sports, so this is the next thing up, and I find it to be really interesting to be able to play a character in a play.”

     Although the play was meticulously acted on stage, there were many challenges for the students and directors in achieving success in the final production. A significant component of acting is for the actors to cloak their true identity to fully understand the roles they play, which can render challenges for the cast.

     “My character, Steve, is someone who has a lot of disabilities and cannot feel pain, which is difficult to come at as an actor and treat with the right amount of respect on stage,” said senior Ramsey Clyde. “This has made the role hard to approach.”

       “It has been tough to put together the play because we had a very short rehearsal period, and since Westminster students have such demanding lives, balancing all of their time commitments made bringing the play to life a bit of a challenge in only a month,” said Bailey.

      Despite the other stresses the students had in their lives during the rehearsal period, Bailey and Finlayson still found ways to make each day exciting for the students. In order to add more fun to the rehearsal, a daily routine for the cast was to play the game “Count Down, Shake Off”, an exhilarating stretching exercise to prepare everyone for rehearsal. Rehearsals also provided a chance for the cast to get to know one another.

       In addition to requiring maximum effort from the cast, the tech crew also played a large role in the successful production of Almost, Maine.

     “The tech crew basically works behind the scenes in order to make sure that the technical elements of the show all come together,” said crew director Hudson Adams. “Here at Westminster, we have crew members who run the light board, who run the sound board, and who stage manage to make sure all the technical elements happen on queue. We also have students who help with the movement of scenery, who help put body microphones on actors, and who also help with hair and makeup.”

       The props help set the scene and establish the location in a play. The the set was just a wall unit that had different props and accessories per scene to show what the setting is, such as a bar, a laundry mat, and even the interior of a home.

       Adams is a constant in Westminster plays, with his helpful set-building skills and ability to train the crew team in a short amount of time.

     This play brought the realities of love and friendship into the light in the time allotment of one fictional winter night. With a small cast of 11 students, some with minimal acting experience and others familiar with the stage, the play showed a level of compassion that the actors truly accomplished gracefully and with humor. With a mystical energy and a personalized group of characters, the simplistic yet intriguing play enticed the audience all together.

“Almost, Maine is a funny, heartfelt, and beautiful piece that is a bit of a mess,” said Gansereit. “I truly gained a new perspective on the amount of work put into acting and the production of a play during my time on the stage this semester. Almost, Maine definitely proved that when a group of people comes together, they can create something absolutely amazing.”

       The theatre filled up when the Westminster players successfully put on two shows of this play. Whether experienced or foreign to the stage, Almost, Maine enticed many students and aided the cast in pursuing their aspirations of acting.