Archive 2008 - 2019

Holliston Drama Club Does It Right

by Ann Talbot


On Saturday a preliminary round of the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild was hosted by Holliston. Beginning at 9 am, eight high school teams performed a one-act play in competition. There are similarities to an athletic tournament – the energy, the focus, the practice, the split second timing. But the arena is a blank stage and the equipment is the voice, body language, setting, lighting, with a prop or two. The audience adds a measure with its emotion meeting that of the characters somewhere in thin air between the seats and the stage.
As in any competition, there are rules and judges. Timers are very important. Each play must take no longer than forty minutes – a beginning, middle and end in forty minutes. Each team begins with an empty stage and must set up its entire staging in five minutes with the timer calling out elapsed time up to the deadline. At the end of the play, another five minutes is allotted for striking the set and leaving the stage empty and clean. These phases of the performance are done within sight of the audience – no curtain is used.  Before the next play, the previous cast changes into jeans and a special tee shirt in their school color, entering the auditorium together to a standing ovation. 
From here on I shall focus on Holliston’s presentation since I did not see most of the others.
The choice of a play is crucial given the talent and the demographic of the cast. Some choose a classical author, some a contemporary unknown and some casts write a play themselves. In yesterday’s eight, two plays were original , Holliston’s being one. Given the bare framework of what do we want to portray, what characters will portray it best and what is the best location for those characters, the cast and director must get the concept started and begin to give the characters something to say and do. This is a lesson in teamwork that will be remembered forever. I wonder how much of the original discussion ended up on yesterday’s stage. 
Humans is the result. A-cast-within-a-cast of five players visit a fine arts museum portraying a different element of the human condition each time they appear on stage – the youngsters, the senior citizens, the snobby set, the tourist from far away. The characters reveal themselves as they study the works of art also portrayed by other members of the cast who never leave the stage. They are also part of the setting as statues and portraits on the museum wall. After the security guard periodically checks the room and leaves, the works of art comment on the humans who have visited and have conversations between themselves that would surprise the visitors. 
Little by little during the performance, the audience warms to the fact that Humans is very funny. Both the actions of the visitors and the commentary of the works of art are clever and delivered with excellent timing. One begins to predict some of the behaviors – the security guard shyly saying hello to the life-size courtesans, for example. Then the audience bursts into laughter. 
Not to be ignored is the visual feast of the museum setting. The portraits are classic with beautifully colored costumes. The statues run the gamut from a head on a block, a young hippie, a bullfighter, to a metallic girl shining in silver. Sorry that the plays cannot be photographed, but that is a rule of the larger theater since it distracts the cast.
Preliminary rounds took place at the same time all over the state. The day in Holliston ends with discussion groups, a pizza party, dancing on the stage and an awards ceremony. Three winning plays will go on to the semi-final round next Saturday and the finals the following week. As I am writing, the awards have not been announced. I hope Holliston will go on, not just because I am partial, but because Humans deserves to compete again. Congratulations to all involved.

Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild has an interesting website explaining the drama festival in detail and the judging (

Comments (2)

Well, yesterday did not dissapoint. And Holliston was done proud by the organizers, not an easy feat considering it meant catering 3 meals for over 270 people, running concessions and having 8 top notch plays put on to boot. Great job HHS on your production of "Humans". That was as much fun as any football game I have been to. Do yourselves a favor, come see the semi finals next week, the productions will be even better.

Andy Porter | 2012-03-04 15:01:38

Congratulationsa to the cast and crew of "Humans"! As Mrs Talbot points out, they were selected as a semi-finalist. I'll have some details on next week's location and times, as well as some information on the individual awards given to the cast and crew, at a later time. Thanks to Mrs Talbot and Mr Saulnier for their coverage of the event. Thanks to all of you who made an incredible day possible. It took a village to host this festival!

Bud Dodge | 2012-03-04 07:35:24