Freeport High Schoolers rehearse “The Tinderbox” for the Maine One Act state competition. Pictured are, from left, Tommy O’Brien, Zane Aguiar, Audrey Piltch, Jessica Garneau and Emily Garneau. Maria Skillings / The Times Record

Freeport High School actors will face off against eight other high schools in the Maine Drama Festival Class B state finals featuring one-act plays this weekend.

The cast of 16 will perform “The Tinderbox,” a 40-minute play based on Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairy tale of love, loss and magic.

“At its core, ‘The Tinderbox’ is about a boy, Jonas, who is bullied, ostracized and seen as an ‘idiot’ and a ‘fool,'” Director Mara Dale said. “The way society treats him is a direct reflection of Hans Christian Andersen’s real life. Andersen often expressed his narrative in his stories, as he was seen as an outsider.”

This is Dale’s first year teaching and directing theater at Freeport. She said audiences will be surprised by the “technical elements” of the show, including dogs, sword fights and a handmade prop tree.

Also performing to try to win the title will be Stearns, Ellsworth, Oceanside, Cheverus, Central, Fort Kent and Ellsworth high schools as well as Monmouth Academy.

Last weekend, Freeport competed in regionals for the Maine Drama Festival against nine other high schools at Medomak Valley High, where they performed their one-act play and advanced to the Class B state finals.


Zane Aguiar, 18, plays the villain of the story, Christian, and said the sword-fighting scenes with co-stars Tommy O’Brien (Jonas) and Audrey Piltch (Jenny) have been challenging and fun. He said the choreography took two months of work, but playing a villain was worth it.

“I think it’s one of the best roles, finding the mix between making people hate you and creating a side of the character that you can empathize with,” Aguiar said.

O’Brien, 16, said he isn’t “as nervous as he should be” for states because he’s confident in the chemistry he has with his castmates.

Piltch, 17, said the one-act competition isn’t just about winning but about meeting students throughout Maine who share a passion for theater.

“I got to meet a lot of really great people and see a lot of amazing work,” Piltch said. “I’m proud of the work that we did; I think it’s taken a lot of time to get where we are and I’m really proud of the final product.”

Assistant Director Katie Roy, 17, said she hopes judges and audience members will appreciate the dark elements of the show.


“‘The Tinderbox’ is a fairy tale that not many people would expect because it’s not all butterflies, unicorns and rainbows,” she said.

Roy said viewers will find common ground with the main character Jonas because he “feels the world is against him.” Roy said the emotional through line of the show will translate because of the cast’s connectivity.

Dale agreed and said the cohesiveness of the cast is where they shine.

“I’m most proud of them embodying the physical theater element and the ensemble element,” Dale said. “I think that after COVID, where we couldn’t come together as a community, made it a lot harder to do. We’ve been working since December, and I am really proud of how far they’ve come physically with this show.”

All schools competing will have five minutes to assemble their set, 40 minutes to perform their show and five minutes to break down their sets. If any competitor goes over the allotted time, points will be deducted from their final score. Three judges will evaluate each performance based on body movement, voice, lights, sound, makeup, hair, costumes, blocking and more, according to Dale.

Freeport High School will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, March 24, at Ellsworth High School, 24 Lejok St., Ellsworth.

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