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Freeport High School Theatre

November 3, 2020

Antigone Now

At the end of October Freeport High School theatre program created something pretty special! Everyone felt the success and benefits from students and staff to administration and the community.

I met Natalie Safely about 3 years ago when she and dancer Nancy Salmon worked together after receiving a dance grant from the Maine Arts Commission. Natalie is the theatre teacher at Freeport High School. I had a chance to chat with Nancy last week and she mentioned the work that Natalie did this fall. I was impressed!

At our first meeting in the spring of 2019 I visited Freeport High School to learn more about the dance residency and the teaching and learning underway. I immediately noticed Natalie was an outstanding collaborator! This fall Natalie worked with Nate Menifield, Zoe Konstantino, and Ben Potvin and Freeport students and in five weeks they put together and performed the play Antigone Now. It is a GREAT example of the amazing work that takes place when we collaborate and focus on the pathway and possibilities! Looking at the file of photos taken by parent Ingrid van Duivenbode illustrates the magic of the performance. It was performed outside practicing appropriate pandemic safety abiding by the CDC guidelines.

 Photo by Freeport High School parent Ingrid van Duivenbode

Antigone Now, by Melissa Cooper was performed by Freeport High School’s Theatre Arts program on October 23, 24, 25. Nancy Salmon was fortunate to attend and she said: “My husband and I saw the 2nd night of Antigone Now at Freeport High School, tucked into a U-shaped alcove outdoors. We were SO impressed by and proud of the students (on “stage” and tech), the directing staff and the administration who made this COVID-safe, live performance of quality, resonating theater a welcome relief from Zoom.

They had to keep the cast and crew under 50 in order to be able to rehearse indoors.

 Photo by Freeport High School parent Ingrid van Duivenbode

I am grateful to Natalie that she took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

How did you come up with the idea to perform outside?

When schools closed last March, we were working on two different productions. As the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, we soon realized that our stage, like thousands of others, would remain dark. We didn’t know when we would be able to perform again. During a socially distanced walk with a friend, I was explaining how we couldn’t do a musical, how we can’t dance, and on and on. She said, “Natalie, why don’t you do a play with masks?” I was too close to the situation. I was focused on all of the things we couldn’t do instead of focusing on the things we could do! Sometimes, we get in our own way. When we are able to look outside ourselves: other perspectives, other options, other interpretations, the impossible becomes possible. With perseverance and flexibility we were able to create a live piece of theatre that six months ago seemed impossible.

 Photo by Freeport High School parent Ingrid van Duivenbode

What did it involve taking the performance out of doors?

In two words: Ben Potvin…It was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. The first challenge was agreeing where on campus we could put up a set that had access to power, where cars would not drive by and where we would not be competing with sporting events and practices. When we finally agreed on a location, then came the logistics of building a moveable set. Once we got into tech week the lighting and sound had to be set up and taken down each night. We set up the soundboard in a classroom that acted like a booth where the stage manager called the cues, sound board op and spot operator ran their cues from there, however we had to set the light board up in a different location because we couldn’t keep social distancing with four students in the area we were using as a booth.  The sound was our biggest challenge. There were so many outdoor factors that came into play: airplanes flying over, sound from the traffic on I-95, masks and mic placement, sound signals cutting in and out for a variety of reasons. When I approached my principal, I said, “No problem, we can do it outside!” It took a knowledgeable tech director (Ben Potvin) to work through a lot of logistical challenges.

 Photo by Freeport High School parent Ingrid van Duivenbode

How did you keep the students safe while practicing, creating set, and performing?

Everyone had to use hand sanitizer before entering the space and throughout rehearsal. Longer rehearsals everyone was reminded to take a moment to wash their hands. Masks were worn by all inside and out.To keep the actors safe during rehearsal we put tape marks on the floor indicating 6 feet distancing, no actors shared props–we did have one prop that needed to be brought on by one actor and then used by another–as a cast we figured out that he could wear rubber gloves to bring it on stage. The actors did not wear makeup, they executed their own hair design, put on their own microphones and did not have any costume changes. During tech calls, all tools were sanitized before and after each use. Techs wore masks when working inside and outside as well as maintaining social distancing.

 Photo by Freeport High School parent Ingrid van Duivenbode

Tell a bit about the support and from who to make it happen

Our principal, Jen Gulko, is incredibly supportive of our program. After explaining to her how we would adhere to all guidelines she approved our pursuit of producing a fall play. 

We have an amazing artistic team: Ben Potvin (Technical Director), Nate Menifield (Music Director) and Zoe Konstantio ( Choreographer) and myself as Director and Producer.  These positions were in place for the fall musical, however we quickly transitioned our roles to put on a play in 5 weeks.  It took each member of the team to make this happen! Nate focused on the text analysis and vocal performance, Zoe and I focused on staging and movement, and Ben focused on the tech. With each one of us able to focus on one area, the students were more focused and remained on task.

I hope that this blog post provides you with inspiration to figure out how you also can perform with your students. I’ve included the Press Release below so you can get the full impact and hopefully take away some ideas that you can adapt for your own work this year.

Antigone Now, FALL PLAY, PRESS RELEASE

A battle for honor takes place in Freeport High School’s upcoming production of Antigone Now, a modern adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone, written by Melissa Cooper.

Contact: Natalie Safley, 207-865-4706 ext. 801, safleyn@rsu5.org

October 12, 2019

Freeport, ME– “Theatre artists have been wearing masks since 400BC, so why can’t we?”  said Natalie Safley, Theatre Arts Director at Freeport High School, when discussing their upcoming fall play performance. When schools shut down last March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of theaters also went dark, cancelling shows across the country. Once Safley learned that RSU 5 was going to return to school this fall under a hybrid plan (where students attend in person part of the time), she immediately reached out to FHS Principal, Jen Gulko, to discuss doing a fall production.  Maine CDC guidelines prevent musical performances at this time, and currently limit outdoor gatherings to 100. Safley and Gulko determined that a small-cast fall play – produced outside and in accordance with all current safety guidelines – could take place. Safley rushed to choose a script, gather her artistic team, and conduct auditions.  Of the experience, she notes, “Putting together a show in 5 weeks instead of 10 is an unbelievable undertaking, but FHS accepted the challenge!”  

Playscripts, Inc. describes this adaptation as a “…contemporary response to the myth of Antigone…” Antigone (played by FHS junior, Ella Vertenten) strives to bury her brother, Polyneices, with honor, defying a decree from the king (who also happens to be her uncle) that, “No one may bury him, no one may touch him. It’s against the law.” Drama ensues as the characters fight to preserve the laws of the city while keeping the family intact.  

All performances will be held outdoors, Friday-Sunday, October 23-25, at 7PM, adjacent to the entrance to the Joan Benoit Samuelson Stadium (30 Holbrook St., Freeport, Maine). Tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door. All patrons must wear a mask, practice social distancing, and should bring a blanket or chair to sit on. 

Purchase tickets to live performances here:http://bit.ly/FHSAntigone

Direction: Natalie Safley, Nate Menifield, Zoe Konstantino

Technical Direction: Ben Potvin

* Patrons must bring their own chair or blanket to sit on

*Masks and Social Distancing in place 

Contact Natalie Safley, safleyn@rsu5.org

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