Members of the Bourne High School drama club returned to town from last weekend’s Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s High School Festival led by a police escort.
The escort was in celebration of the troupe’s success at the festival, finishing first out of 14 high schools.
“It’s still a little surreal,” BHS drama teacher Mary L. Murphy said of the group’s winning the festival. She said while it is rewarding, victory, in a competitive sense, should not be the goal of taking part.
“You should enter it to have a remarkable journey with your students and to learn and to grow, and if you happen to win, yay,” she said.
Drama club member Hannah N. Fullerton, a junior, was delighted by the police escort, which was similar to the welcome the town gave the school football team when it won the Super Bowl a year ago.
“It’s cool to be recognized because a lot of time our school is very sports-oriented and drama sometimes gets forgotten, and so to have the rotary shut down for us was kind of cool,” she said.
This is the first time Bourne High School has won top honors at the state festival.
“They were just incredible, every single person in the cast just took direction so well,” Ms. Murphy said of her performers.
The group performed “The Children’s Hour,” which is set in an all-girls boarding school, where one student runs away from the school. To avoid being sent back, she tells her family that two of the school’s teachers are having a lesbian affair. The ensuing scandal destroys the careers and personal lives of the two women.
It’s cool to be recognized because a lot of time our school is very sports-oriented and drama sometimes gets forgotten, and so to have the rotary shut down for us was kind of cool.
Hannah Fullerton, who plays Martha Dobie, one of the two teachers accused by the young girl, said, “It’s really a show about what hatred can do to someone, and the power of hatred; I think that’s a really important message to share.”
Hannah shared that she has known since she was about 7 that a life in the theater is her life’s ambition. The 16-year-old, who has performed in nine Bourne High School shows, said “The Children’s Hour” has provided her with the biggest measure of growth “not just as an actor but as a human being.”
“I think that this experience has been the greatest of my life, not just the greatest of my theatrical career,” she said.
The state high school theater festival was held over three weekends this month. Schools present either one-act plays or edited versions of longer plays.
Presenting an edited version requires approval from the script’s publishing house, Ms. Murphy said. Preliminary rounds were held at 14 schools across Massachusetts on Saturday, March 2, with Bourne High being one of the host schools.
From the preliminary round, Bourne moved on to the semifinals at Framingham High School on Saturday, March 9, where it was selected to move on to the state finals at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston last weekend.
Fourteen productions were presented between Thursday, March 21, and Saturday, March 23, with “The Children’s Hour” being chosen by a panel of three judges as the best among them.
Kylie M. Denesha played Hannah’s fellow teacher, Karen Wright, and the 18-year-old senior echoed Hannah’s sentiments about how special an experience “The Children’s Hour” was.
“Being able to graduate, winning the state finals, with some of the best people that I’ve been graced to know and perform with, is really rewarding,” she said. Kylie, who is choosing between the University of Vermont and University of Massachusetts Amherst for college, said that she will hate leaving “some of the closest friends that I could possibly make” upon graduation.
“I can’t wait to come back and see what they have next year,” she said.
Play's Meaningful Impact
Despite playing Mary Tilford, the little girl who lies about her teachers, setting up the play’s tragic consequences, Amanda E. Ross said that she loves her character. The 16-year-old junior said that Mary’s search for meaning and attention in her relationships with others resonated with her. She also said that the show had a deep impact on everyone involved.
“We’re all going to carry a little piece of our characters with us forever; it’s just been such a beautiful, amazing journey,” she said.
We’re all going to carry a little piece of our characters with us forever; it’s just been such a beautiful, amazing journey.
Ms. Murphy said that theater festival is an actual class that she teaches, and her process for deciding on which play to produce begins with her reading about 30 plays between June and July. From that list of 30, she narrows it down to 10 that she then presents to her class at the start of the new school year. She said that she already knew that the makeup of this year’s class was going to be predominantly women, so she read only women’s plays; among them the Southern female ensemble play “Crimes of the Heart” by Beth Henley.
“When I first start reading plays, I always go back to the piece that on the first read made me go just ‘wow!’ and caused some sort of visceral or internal reaction in me,” she said.
It was that kind of reaction that Ms. Murphy said she had to “The Children’s Hour.” She said that she put it away and read a number of other plays but kept going back to it because of the reaction she had to it.
A play should make a person feel and think, she said, and it should teach something to the students performing in it. Ms. Murphy said “The Children’s Hour” taught her students a lot.
“It taught them about tolerance, and the world today and how far, hopefully, we have made strides in tolerance,” she said.
No rest for the weary or the honored, however, as the drama club opens a musical version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women” one week from tonight. Performances are Thursday, April 4, at 6:30 PM; Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6, at 7 PM; and Sunday, April 7, at 2 PM. The show will be performed in the Beth Bourne Auditorium at Bourne High School. Tickets are $6 for students, $14 for adults and $12 for senior citizens. Reservations can be made by calling 508-759-0699.