Newport Harbor to Compete in Theatre Festival

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Our Town cast photo. — Photo courtesy Steve Stary
“Our Town” cast photo.
— Photo courtesy Steve Stary

Some local high school students will be trying to outperform their peers from other regional schools next week in a competition full of drama.

Newport Harbor High School will perform “Our Town” Jan. 17 on stage at Servite High School in Anaheim as part of the California Educational Theatre Association’s 2014 Southern California High School Theatre Festival.

It’s a wonderful recognition for the drama department, the school and the success of the show, said producer Carrie Stephens. And it’s all very exciting for the students, she added.

“I’m really proud of them and this is a wonderful opportunity for all of them,” Stephens said. “I’m happy to work with each and every one of them.”

The group will be competing against 13 other schools from Orange County, Los Angeles, and the Inland Empire. While some schools will only present a portion of their selected play, NHHS was one of the few schools chosen to perform the entire play, which they originally staged last November.

“Our Town,” written by Thornton wilder, is about a small fictional community, Grover’s Corners, N.H. Set around the turn of the last century, the story spans 12 years, between 1901 and 1913.

“It’s about the simple things in life,” said parent Peter Maradudin, the “artistic director” volunteer for the program. “It’s about growing up, falling in love and getting married, and dying.”

Maradudin helped with lighting and scenery for the show. The former Broadway and South Coast Repertory (among many other notable theatres) lighting designer has two kids in the show: Noah Gray, a senior, and Fiona Gray, a freshman.

The cast performing "Our Town"
The cast performing “Our Town”

The company of 37 students include 23 cast members and 14 crew members. School staff and many parent volunteers also help bring the production to life.

The play is traditionally performed without a set and props, aside from a few chairs and tables, but the NHHS team build a set, although the audience may not have known it. They designed it to look like an old theater stage, complete with a brick wall background and old wooden floor.

The production design was enormous, Maradudin said, and he had concerns about remounting it on a completely different stage. So they will be doing a “lighter version” of it.

Because of the winter break, sharing the stage with other performers and academic responsibilities, the group will only have a handful of rehearsals under their belt before performing on Friday. But it’s enough “to get the rust off,” Maradudin said.

The play is being directed by Mercy Vasquez.

“I think she really helped us raise the bar,” Maradudin said.

Being included in the CETA event will give the Newport Harbor program some much needed positive exposure, Maradudin. It will also hopefully show the students that the program is getting stronger and can compete with the performing arts schools in the area, he added.

The drama department has gone through some struggles the last few years, Stephens said. The school has been working on getting the program back up on its feet and create some consistency in the program.

“We’ve worked to become a team and create a more positive environment,” she said. “We’ve tried to create a stronger team… a more unified front.”

This year has been a turning point for the program to move in a more positive direction, and being chosen to compete at the CETA festival is a big confidence booster.

“I’m very, very proud of (the show) and the students,” Maradudin said. “It’s deserving of this honor.”

The school’s next show is “Lucky Stiff,” directed by Roberta Kay. It will run Feb. 13-15.

NHHS students perform a scene
NHHS students perform a scene
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