Marley Viselli, contributing writer

November 19th was the opening performance of Nantucket High School Drama club’s production of “Almost, Maine.” The play ran for three nights with about 300 people in total attendance. It was directed by Emily Tessier, along with co-directors Sean Allen and Matt Ferriera. “Having these two co-direct the show was so helpful,” Tessier explained, “because it allowed me to have a sounding board to bounce my ideas off of, and allowed me to collaborate with other former theatre kids.” Tessier chose “Almost, Maine” because it is done often in high schools, and the small town in the play is similar to Nantucket. It also provided scenes with only two characters a piece, assuring that even if Covid-19 restrictions increased, students would still be able to perform. Tessier found a sentimental value to the play, thinking that audiences would relate to the scenes in the show—having had some of the very same experiences as some of the characters.

Rehearsals for “Almost, Maine” began in September. “Unfortunately, it started off very slow. We didn’t have many rehearsals when the sports seasons were still going on,” said freshman and cast member Taylor Bistany. A constant struggle, especially at the start of play production that Tessier faced as director was managing rehearsal schedules. Many cast members participated in fall sports, which created scheduling problems. “Once the sports seasons started to end, rehearsals picked up,” Bistany remarked. Once rehearsals began at a more constant rate and continued throughout October and November, actors rehearsed on stage and ran lines backstage and in the auditorium. Rehearsals often began directly after 2:20 and continued until as late as 8pm, almost every day of the week. Cast members spent hours laughing and joking around with each other, rehearsing scenes and scene blocking. “It was definitely a very fun and memorable experience,” says Bistany.

The play, written by John Cariani, follows nine couples in a small town in northern Maine, each only appearing in one scene. The show started off with characters Pete and Ginette in the Prologue, played by freshmen Mani Taveras and Rihanna Cranston. The first scene was “Her Heart,” with characters Glory and East, played by Julia Marks and Andrew Daume. Next was “Sad and Glad.” Characters Jimmy, Sandrine, and Villian, were played by Kipper Buccino, Taylor Bistany, and Nora Sullivan, respectively. “This Hurts” characters, Marvalyn and Steve, were played by Keith-Anne Maynard and Rocky Monto. Then was “Getting it Back,” with characters Gayle and Lendall, played by Cate Oberly and Rory Murray. After the 15 minute intermission, Pete returns for the interlogue. The following scene is “Where It Went,” with characters Phil and Marci, played by Avery Moore and Erin McCormack. Next, in “Story of Hope,” characters Hope, Daniel, and Suzette, were played by Anna Popnikolova, Goshi Daily, and Molly Parsons. In the scene “Seeing the Thing,” characters Rhonda and Dave were played by Ollie Davis and Rocky Monto. Pete and Ginnette made a final appearance in the Epilogue. 

The show was a big success, and the cast was happy with what they all managed to produce at the end of rehearsal. Drama club puts on only one play each school year, but they hope to have other activities continue through the year.

In the “Almost, Maine” program, Tessier wrote a Director’s Note, towards the audience, talking about her experience directing and her relationship with the show:

“When I first announced that I would be directing “Almost, Maine,” I was met with mixed reactions. Among the theatre community, this show is perceived to be basic. It’s one of those classic, overdone shows that most theatre professionals have acted in at some point in their lives. Everyone has been in or a part of “Almost, Maine.” It’s the non-musical version of “Seussical” or “Godspell.” Nothing new. And for that reason, I was hesitant to announce it for quite a while. As artists, we feel constant pressure to be unique, groundbreaking, memorable. This show is neither unique nor groundbreaking, but it is truly memorable, loving and heart-warming. Which is exactly what the world needs.

We can all agree that these past two years have been some of the craziest, saddest, and most stressful years of our lives. We have watched loved ones die from an illness we know nothing about, and watched as others have lost their jobs, businesses, and careers. We have been forced to change and modify almost every element of our lives, and while the pandemic has brought so much sadness and grief, it has also allowed opportunities for love, growth, and connection; which is exactly what this show brings to its audience and to our island community

One of the most beautiful aspects of this island is the incredible community that has been cultivated here. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is loved by someone. Even if you have never met someone, you probably work with their sister or went to high school with their dad. People will come and go, but from what I’ve seen, Nantucket stays with you.

The characters that we meet in this show exist here on Nantucket. East may as well be your neighbor, and Marci is likely your best friend from high school. Sandrine went to school with your daughter, and Steve is that quirky kid who sat behind you in Chemistry. Their stories and lives are interwoven into ours, and it’s impossible not to identify with these characters. Even Jimmy. Unfortunately, we all know a Jimmy. 

So that is why I have decided to direct “Almost, Maine.” So laugh, cry, and allow yourself to become a part of this small town. After the insane year we have all had, this is my love letter to you all. Thank you for accepting me into your community two years ago, and thank you for being my home today. Our play may be set in Maine, but it’s Almost Nantucket. 

All of my love,

Emily”

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