Mat Longware, Olivia Politi, Max Longware and Payton Gough are the principal cast members of “[title of show],” this year’s production by the Willsboro Drama Club.
WILLSBORO — Broadway aficionado and self-proclaimed “theatre dork” Derrick Hopkins had no idea what to expect when he walked into a performance hall to see “[title of show],” a minimalist production that tells the story of two struggling writers trying to organize a music theatre festival.
The oddly-named effort was an emotional whirlwind that left the instructor in both tears and stitches.
“The show is a love letter to musical theatre,” Hopkins said. “At its heart, it is about finding your artistic voice and expression.”
The next thought was how to bring the Tony Award-nominated production back to Willsboro Central, where Hopkins serves as a fifth-grade teacher and the director of the Willsboro Drama Club.
The district is known for their productions spearheaded by Hopkins and his colleague, Jennifer Moore, both recognized nationally for their work in the arts.
But tackling a small, four-person musical is a new adventure, Hopkins said, and one that has likely never been done in the region.
Preparations in the best of times are rigorous, and are generally a year-round undertaking.
Rehearsals and auditions began back in September, gained momentum in January and reached liftoff in February.
“The four student actors have to be ‘on’ for 90-minutes with no intermission,” Hopkins said.
Payton Gough, a senior, said being a part of a four-person play is different than a regular production that contains upward of 20 people.
But she relished the chance to perform with three of her closest friends — Olivia Politi and Mat and Max Longware — as part of her final high school production before graduating.
“I absolutely love how small the cast is because we are all extremely close and work very well together,” said Olivia Politi, a sophomore. “The show can connect to people of all ages who deal with their quirks and their insecurities.”
The principal cast is joined by seven students working behind the scenes.
Assistant Director Annie-Laurie Lemieux said the students have “reached new heights” during the rehearsal process as they have discovered and developed their individual characters.
“I feel privileged and extremely proud to be included in this production,” she said. “Through learning, laughter and friendship, we have all come together to create a truly magical theatrical experience.”
The arts, said Hopkins, are extremely important for small, rural communities.
“Some kids may never get to another play or musical outside of the community,” he said.
“[title of show]” at Willsboro Central: Performances are March 31 and April 1 at 7 p.m. and April 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door: $10 for general admission; $8 for seniors and students. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-963-4456. “[title of show]” is rated PG for mild language and some suggestive humor that may not be appropriate for children 8 and under.