BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield High School Thespian Society will present the play “Almost Maine” in performances tonight, tomorrow and Saturday nights at 7 p.m.
A comedy written by John Cariani, “Almost, Maine” had its off-Broadway premier in 2006. According to Brandon Doemling, BHS drama teacher and director of the school production, it is currently the most-performed high school play in America.
“It was written by a guy who grew up in northern Maine,” Doemling said earlier this week at Westminster Art Center/Van Fossen Theater, where the play will be performed. “The playwright didn’t think northern Maine was represented in theater.”
Doemling called “Almost, Maine,” a romantic comedy with nine separate scenes. All the scenes are supposed to be occurring on the same night, at 9 p.m., during an aurora borealis. Byrne said there will be an aurora borealis.
“Everything is happening at the same time,” he said.
Doemling did not know why “Almost, Maine” was the most-produced high school play in America, supplanting “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”
“It’s sweetly absurd,” he said. “We recently did ‘The Trojan Women’ and ‘The Crucible.’ It was time for a comedy.”
But he pointed out that he wants to offer incoming freshmen the opportunity to play in a drama, a classic, a comedy and something absurd, during their stay at BHS.
Doemling has never seen a production of “Almost, Maine.”
“Because something is most-produced doesn’t stop me from doing a play,” he said.
“Almost, Maine,” was originally produced with a cast of four. The BHS cast will have 19 students. Doemling said he likes to use as many student actors as possible in a production. Sixty-three students auditioned for “Almost, Maine.” A crew of an additional 11 students are working on the play. Because the set design is so minimal, Doemling said students were rotated so that everyone had a chance to contribute. There are 11 seniors in the entire company of 30 students.
“We do have less experience,” Doemling said of the company. “Two boys have never done a play before. There is a girl who has never done a play and a senior girl, who has been in a musical chorus, who has never been in a play.”
One of the benefits of having less experience among his cast, Doemling said, is that it shows that students are getting into theater arts.
“Students are becoming less and less acquainted with the theater arts,” he said. “I have 105 students in my theater program. I’d say half of them have never seen a play.”
During rehearsals, Doemling said he saw how touching the students found “Almost, Maine” to be. He thought this taught the cast and crew an important lesson.
“In this world, there is so much cynicism,” he said. “But there is a place for this sort of romance — that sentimentality is not such a bad thing.”
Doemling said the high school was preparing to start a full-fledge theater curriculum by adding stagecraft and theater production. The proposal has been approved the the Board of Education. A class in theater production, he said, would permit students who might now have the chance to perform in a BHS Thespian Society production, to act in smaller plays for class.
A fee will be charged for “Almost, Maine.”