The Cleveland High School drama department put on a beautiful performance of “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani on Nov. 13-15. The play received great praise from the audience and the auditorium grew in numbers each night.
“Almost, Maine” follows nine different love stories in the course of one Friday night in the fictional town of Almost, Maine. Throughout these nine vignettes there are people who are falling in love, out of love or even discovering love for the first time. What is unique about this play is that each scene has different characters that the audience only sees once. For example, the scene introduces two or three characters, describes their story and then the audience doesn’t see them again. This allows for so many different stories to weave together.
New Cleveland drama teacher, Michael Payne, chose “Almost, Maine” for several reasons. He said, “When I first came to Cleveland I had no idea of the student body, what it consisted of. I didn’t know the talent level of the kids, how experienced they were, and so I wanted to find a play that is funny, sweet, that is romantic, that we can really delve into a lot of internal relationships.” At first, Payne thought of John Cariani’s second play, “Lovesick.” However, he knew Cariani plans to write a third play around the same theme. Payne considered how nice it would be over the years to do all three in a row, so he decided on Cariani’s first play, “Almost, Maine.”
The show faced a few challenges. For example, it took awhile for people to memorize their lines. Also the intimacy aspect was a challenge for some students. Payne said, “ [One challenge was] the intimacy of getting students comfortable enough to take a kiss on stage and to really have that level of intimacy that the play requires and for them to trust each other.” To combat this, each scene met separately to rehearse for awhile. For example, it would only be the actors of the scene, the stage director and technicians.
Payne said, “I have seen nothing but growth from the cast.” And on opening night, Nov. 13, this showed. Senior stage director for the show, Kayden Cummings, said, “All of our actors were amazing at demonstrating emotion and putting the feeling of their piece across. I loved ‘Almost, Maine.’ It was such a fun production to work on. I think what sets it apart is that it doesn’t show one side or perspective of love.”
The show grew in popularity and expanded over the three nights. On opening night about 70 people filed in and by the last night around 150 people came out to see the show. “You never really know what to expect coming to a new school and the students work extremely hard and it was so nice to put it out in front of an audience because they started to get what they anticipated getting,” said Payne. “When the audience starts to react to those things, it’s just awesome and the actors fly.”
Coming up next from the theater department is an open mic night on Dec. 18. Also, auditions will be held for “Twelve Angry Jurors” on Jan. 1 and the show will take place in February.