By Ann Needle
It stirs memories of the 1980s for parents, and offers a time-tested glimpse for teens into the rough road to success. And, as “Fame” plays at Nashoba Regional High School this weekend, everyone can enjoy the premier of some new talent at the high school, as well.
NRHS’s new—and first— Theater Arts teacher, Allison Martell-Bengston, will direct the school’s fall production for the first time. NRHS Drama Director Bill Grady is on medical leave, so Martell-Bengston was drafted into the role. (She assured that Grady pledged to return for the spring musical.)
“I was told I was directing [the fall play] two weeks before auditions,” Martell-Bengston laughed. But, as with true theater folks, Martell-Bengston did not appear at all ruffled over the task.
For those not familiar with the story, “Fame” came into the theater world in 1980 as a film musical. It went on to become a television show for several seasons during that decade, and later was scripted as a play.
Fame’s story opens at auditions for high school applicants to the New York City School of Performing Arts. This large variety of teen hopefuls and attitudes share the dream of using their artistic talents to create a life where, as one character put it, “Everybody knows your face.” The play takes the audience on the students’ journeys to graduation as they interact with teachers, families, and each other.
The characters’ stories reflect the often gritty reality of making it in the cut-throat atmosphere of the arts. In one scene, some seniors at the Performing Arts high school are being waited on in a restaurant by someone who turns out to be a top-notch graduate everyone thought would have been famous at this point in his life. One of the diners asks her friends, “If he can’t make it, why can I?”
Though this version of Fame is a play rather than the original musical, expect plenty of music and dancing as part of the students’ stories.”One of the unique things about this production is that there is a lot of overlap between scenes,” said Martell-Bengston. “While some students are doing a scene about monologues, another group of students is doing a tap number; while some students are working on a modern dance, another group is playing Mozart.”
After being drafted for the fall play, Martell-Bengston explained that she chose to put on Fame because, “I like that it’s an ensemble piece, giving lots of opportunity for kids to show off their talents.” For instance, she noted that a few actors will even play their own instruments as part of their roles.
The New Face On Stage
Martell-Bengston herself highlights NRHS’s increasing push to offer a more diverse curriculum. She joined the staff part-time in the spring to start a Theater Arts program. And, the popularity has been overwhelming, with Martell-Bengston noting that she now teaches four TA classes at various levels; five classes would make her full-time.
Estimating she has been involved in more than 90 performances of some sort since high school, Martell-Bengston spoke of her previous job in teaching and directing productions at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, where, “We built the sets, we did all the costuming, we did everything.” She expressed her delight at finding Nashoba parents do all of these backstage tasks.
As for the actors, the Stow audience will find some of its students in prominent roles, including Sean Bannon, Gwen Burke, Alicia Burrows, Rachel Crane, Nate Draudt, Haley Giovinazzo, Jessie Harmon, Anna Moffat, Mariana Sardella, and Cam Walbridge.
Performances take place on Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21, at 7:30pm; and Sunday, November 22, at 2pm at the NRHS auditorium, 12 Green Rd., Bolton. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. To order tickets in advance go to www.NashobaDrama.com.
Produced by special arrangement with THE DRAMATIC PUBLISHING COMPANY of Woodstock, Illinois and supported in part by a grant from the Stow Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.