Updated: The Success of Stage 32

This article was written by Avery Ryan, a student in Journalism class.

 

Update: Stage 32 has since won the VT State Theater Festival and has advanced to the New England Festival. Read Below to learn how they got there.

 

Stage 32, U-32’s high school theater program, is going to the VT State Theater Festival sponsored by the Vermont Drama Council. U-32’s great performance at the regional festival advanced them to the state festival; only 8 high schools in the state are chosen each year. The festival will be held on April 5 & 6 at Otter Valley Union High School. 

 

Stage 32 director and screenwriter, Erin Galligan-Baldwin, is excited about this renewed opportunity to bring their original one act play, Unspoken Word, to the festival. “I wanted us to go back to [the festival]. We haven’t gone since pre-COVID,” said Erin. 

 

Stage 32 attended the regional festival at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro, Vermont. Regional festivals are held across the state to determine which theater programs advance to the state festival in early April. “It’s a beautiful space, and it was really an honor to perform. Especially after not going to the festival for so many years,” said Erin. Stage 32 performed alongside Hazen Union School, People’s Academy, and Hartford High School.

Members of Stage 32 at the regional festival. (Erin Galligan-Baldwin)

U-32 was one of the two schools from the regional festival chosen to advance. Annabelle Morland, assistant stage manager, said, “It wasn’t a landslide victory, it was a little close.” 

 

Evelyn (Evi) Rocha, who plays Anna (the main character’s mom), enjoyed her experience. “Going to regionals was awesome,” she said. She admitted that she was a little nervous, but that disappeared once she met other actors there. “I started seeing what fellow theater kids were doing in the state and it was really cool,” she said. 

 

Calister (Cal) Boyd, one of the writers and actors in the play, had a similar experience. “The best part of regionals for me was just getting to meet all the other wonderful actors there,” he said.

 

In addition to Stage 32’s great result, individuals got awards for their performances. Evelyn Rocha, Avery Cochran, and Jakobi Kmiecik got Acting Excellence awards, and Cole Saunders got an award for stage management.

Actors and members of stage management receive their awards. (Erin Galligan-Baldwin)

The regional festival focuses on the performance aspect of the event, instead of the competition. Every school gets a sealed envelope with the results of the festival. Theater programs wait to open the envelope until the bus ride home. “They really try to reinforce the spirit of celebration,” said Erin. All of the programs celebrate their performances together, before knowing whether or not they were chosen to advance.

 

Opening the envelope once they got far enough away from the venue was a surprise for the cast and stage crew. “It was a great moment,” Erin said. U-32 was going to the state festival.

 

Months of work went into Unspoken Word. In fact, Erin wasn’t done with the script when auditions were held. “I was just sort of having writer’s block, it just wasn’t happening…I was very honest with the students,” said Erin. She decided to continue writing once she saw each actor’s audition. She told them, “When I continue to write I’ll have your voices in my head.” The cast would then inspire her writing. For example, a new character was added based on Willoughby Mikus’s audition. She got to play the main character’s younger sister.

Jakobi as Piper (front), the main character, and Willoughby as Chloe (back)

adjust to their new home in the play. (Erin Galligan-Baldwin)

 

This allowed for a really unique experience, the actors were able to help write their own performance. Erin shared a google document with the Unspoken Word script and allowed for actor’s to leave feedback comments. “I had a lot of people who went above and beyond,” Erin said, “It really reinforces the artistic process of getting feedback and talking about ideas.”

 

Cal became a co-writer alongside Erin. “[It] has always been a dream of mine to be a playwright,” he said. Cal said that his contributions to the script came from the music he listens to while writing and his own life experiences. “I take those two strands and then I connect them,” he said.

 

Evi reflected on the process. “My experience has been pretty positive. There’s been some late nights, some frustrations, some mistakes,” she said. Yet all of the work eventually paid off in the end. 

 

Ari Jorgenson, who plays the dad in Unspoken Word, enjoyed his role too There is one point in the play where he has to yell to express his character’s frustration. “It’s really fun because I can put a lot of emotion into it,” he said. 

 

In between the regional and state festival, Erin decided to make some more changes in the ending after getting feedback from directors at regionals. During rehearsals these past few weeks, has been a big lift for the actors the most affected. 

Historical figures in the play debate about metamorphosis. (Erin Galligan-Baldwin)

With these big changes, and the length of the production Evi said that, “it’s kind of like a limbo space. We’re not really done with the play, we’re not really practicing in between now and states.” This past Tuesday, however, they were able to do another public performance for practice.

 

The cast and crew are excited about going to the state festival. They have an opportunity to advance to the New England theater festival. “I hope that we can have lots of fun on the two day trip,” said Ari Chapin, who plays the lead villain.

 

Cal, being a writer, sums up his experience perfectly, “I got the best of both worlds. I got to influence the story. And then I also got to be a part of the story.”

 

The full program is attached HERE.

 

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