Theater arts students take to the stage for final exams

By Douglas McCulloch | Jan 11, 2018
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Cassandra Lebeau, who initially played Violet Odell, moments after realizing she had swapped bodies with Mason Benti's character, Gavin Samuel.

For most high school students, finals week means cramming, studying, and writing. Dartmouth High’s theater arts classes, however, do things a little differently.

Instead of paper exams, students take to the stage and perform for their final grades at a special Scene Night. The 19 students in theater classes wrote, directed, or performed in three one-act plays, three monologues, and the opening scene of The Miracle Worker at the show, held at Dartmouth High on January 11.

Alyssa Aguiar and Savannah Grew wrote one of the plays, titled Profile Me. It tells the story of a black teenager accused of a crime they did not commit, and a group of friends determined to stage a jailbreak.

“It’s about racial profiling and racism,” Aguiar explained.

Others took a more light-hearted approach. Desmond Oliveira’s one act play, called Great, Big Conflict featured a bullied and financially struggling girl who swapped places - literally - with a gay teenager.

Mason Benti took the role of Gavin Samuel in that play. He also performed a monologue from Batman as the Joker, and a role in a third play as an abusive boyfriend - all within the two hours of the show.

“I had to learn to be gay, a crazy person, and an abusive boyfriend,” Benti said, noting how challenging it is to learn perform the diverse roles in quick succession.

Megan Dobyna wrote “Stay With Me,” which tells the tale of a seemingly happy couple hiding a dark secret: domestic abuse. It was not the original idea Dobyna was going for, however.

“They were supposed to be a normal couple,” Dobyna said. “This just makes the plot more interesting,” adding that she wanted to include a surprise plot twist in her play.

Students could also perform monologues, either self-written or from popular culture. Reilly Leconte chose the latter, acting out one of the final scenes from the long-running supernatural television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer: an emotional speech given to warriors heading into battle.

Presiding over the show was theater arts teacher Jessica Brittingham, although she noted her classes are heavily student-driven. Before the show, she was busy getting things set up, because Scene Night is a bit more complicated than most theater programs.

“The biggest challenge is we’re doing so many scenes and have to make sure everything technical goes well,” Brittingham said. “A lot of students do their initial projects in September and October, and have to re-rehearse lines.”

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