THE CAST AND CREW OF “RED RADIO,” Morse High School’s one act play to be performed at this year’s One Act Festival.

THE CAST AND CREW OF “RED RADIO,” Morse High School’s one act play to be performed at this year’s One Act Festival.

BATH

Morse High School in Bath is gearing up to host the regional round of the Maine Principals’ Association’s One Act Festival this weekend in their Montgomery Theater, an honor that they receive once every five years. It will be Morse’s final year hosting before Bath’s new high school opens in 2020, making this year extra special.

MORSE JUNIOR SIDONIA STANTON took the reigns as playwright for this year’s One Act Festival, penning “Red Radio.”

MORSE JUNIOR SIDONIA STANTON took the reigns as playwright for this year’s One Act Festival, penning “Red Radio.”

Morse was the first school in the state to host the One Act Festival in 1932. Additionally, they are the only school in the state to perform strictly student-written material. That tradition began in 2002, when drama teacher Kevin O’Leary took over directing duties.

“I knew that since I’m a playwright in my other life, I wanted to bring student-written plays to this organization,” said O’Leary. “It’s become a tradition that everyone looks forward to. But it’s not about competition for us. It’s about empowering the kids and celebrating all of the schools that compete.”

 

 

O’Leary said that on average there are around 80 schools in the competition each year, spanning from Calais to Wells. Nine schools will host regional competitions including Morse, with eight plays preformed at each host school in a 24-hour span on Friday and Saturday. MPA judges will choose one Class A winner and one Class B winner to move on to the State Finals.

 

 

“We’re really excited about hosting this year,” said O’Leary. “We celebrate the arts here at Morse. It’s a love-fest of screaming kids for 24 hours, cheering everyone on. When was the last time your school cheered for the other team when they got a touchdown? That’s what we do here.”

Morse’s “Red Radio” will be one of five student-written productions this year, with Junior Sidonia Stanton taking the reigns as playwright.

“This is my first time being playwright,” said Stanton, who has been writing different versions of “Red Radio” for more than two years. “I thought it would be easy, but I was wrong. It’s really crazy and overwhelming. But the experience has been wonderful.”

 

 

Stanton said that she tapped into her own life experiences while penning “Red Radio,” which follows a girl named Rey who fumbles through relationships, including a crush on a girl named Jordan and searching for her runaway sister who hasn’t contacted her in years.

“The play is really about relationships of every single kind: platonic, romantic, family, blood related and non-blood related,” said Stanton. “The best writing comes from your own experiences. Gathering the courage to share that with a lot of people was stressful. It’s very scary. I’m a very introverted person, and this is something I’ve never done before.”

MORSE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS per form the one act play “Red Radio,” written by Morse Junior Sidonia Stanton. Morse will host the regional round of the Maine Principals’ Association’s One Act Play Festival this weekend. Kevin O’Leary’s photo is second from top. All other photos by Ben Goodridge.

MORSE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS per form the one act play “Red Radio,” written by Morse Junior Sidonia Stanton. Morse will host the regional round of the Maine Principals’ Association’s One Act Play Festival this weekend. Kevin O’Leary’s photo is second from top. All other photos by Ben Goodridge.

Stanton said she has written short stories before, but “Red Radio” is her longest work to date, coming in at almost 40 pages.

“Writing the play was difficult,” said Stanton. “There were times when I was having a really bad day or night and just forced myself to put those emotions to the page. It’s stressful sometimes for me to watch and relive, but I think the way everyone is handling it has been amazing.”

O’Leary said he had Stanton finish a rough draft of “Red Radio” over the summer of 2016. They workshopped the play after school until the New Year, and auditions started in early January.

Senior Tristan Andrew, who plays record store owner Ricky in “Red Radio,” said it didn’t take long to immerse himself into his character.

“All of the characters in this play are very dynamic,” said Andrew. “They’re not cardboard cutouts. They all represent something different in the teenage mind. That’s the great thing about these student written plays: you get something more out of them, something a lot more human and realistic, because it’s from the mouths of the teenagers that are writing them. All of the credit this year goes to Sidonia.”

“Everyone who is working here is making sure Sid gets her play,” said O’Leary. “The actors trust her implicitly and she trusts them.”

During the final week leading up to the festival the cast, stage crew and other theater members meet from 2-6 p.m. each day to rehearse and prepare the school to host. Senior Willow Sylvester, who plays Rey’s love interest Jordan in “Red Radio,” said the students are playing double-duty this year.

“There’s a lot more preparation on our end,” said Sylvester. “Each of us have signed up in pairs to be ambassadors for the other schools, showing them around, telling them when they need to be backstage. We’re the home team but we welcome all the other schools.”

O’Leary said his students will help the other teams immensely, as each team only has five minutes to change sets between plays and knowing where to be and when is paramount to success in the competition.

But Stanton said there is something deeper going on.

“It’s all about love and being there, for our team and the other teams,” Stanton said. “We are all artists, we are all emotional people, and we’ll be cheering for the other schools just as loud as we cheer for ours.”

The One Act Festival begins tonight at 6 p.m. at Morse High School. The home team hits the stage at 9 p.m. The festival starts again at noon on Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students.

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