ArtsFeb 23, 2021

updated Mar 23, 2021

Getting out of the headspace of “can’t”

This year’s play is a virtual production, with video segments shared with the community and posted on the MHS website

How do you get to Almost, Maine? This year, anyway, with a little help from cyberspace.

The MHS Theater Ensemble’s production of Almost, Maine, a romantic comedy about love and loss in the fictional Maine town of Almost, has required equal parts ingenuity, persistence, and trouble-shooting. To say Director of Theater and Dance Jen Jordan and her team reimagined this year’s production would be an understatement!

In a first for MHS, this year’s play will be a virtual production, with video segments shared with the community and posted on the MHS website. And, the cast and crew have truly embraced the challenge.

Watch the Preview and Prologue

Watch Scene II — Her Heart

“When I was given the role of a stage manager for a virtual production, all I felt was disbelief and doubt,” said Linh Tran ’21. “It was certainly not what I had in mind when it came to this job, but as this production grew into what it is today, I have never felt more proud of this ensemble. I want to thank the entire community for supporting us through every chapter.”

Because of its structure, Almost, Maine is conducive to — but not made for — the virtual environment. Set in northern Maine in the middle of winter, the play features a series of vignettes in which characters fall in and out of love, often in unexpected ways.

For example, Episode 1 — a Prologue featuring the couple “Pete,” played by Jiho Shin ’21, and “Ginette,” performed by Olivia McKeon ’23 — was filmed partially in the Klein Arts Center’s Green Room and partially in Seoul, South Korea, where Jiho lives.

Because of the time difference, Ms. Jordan worked with Jiho on weeknights and on some weekends. She and Expressive Arts Department Chair Sophie Lane ’96 edited the first episode, then handed the reins over to students, who have taken the responsibility and run with it, from film editing to stage managing.

Olivia shared that she had mixed emotions when she heard there would be a play. “I just couldn’t imagine acting on Zoom,” she said. “However, the first rehearsal we had was not only inspiring, but it brought me out of the headspace of ‘can’t.’ The challenges we faced only made the end product that much more astonishing and rewarding.”

Jiho noted the irony of portraying, with Olivia, a young couple that has just expressed their love for each other. “My partner and I were on opposite sides of the globe,” she said, 6,800 miles, or 10,900 kilometers, and 13 hours apart. “In our immediate reality, we were as far away from each other as we could possibly be … but within the fantastical reality we were creating together online, our bond was as strong as ever.”

Written by actor and playwright John Cariani, Almost, Maine premiered in Portland, Maine in 2004 and opened off-Broadway during the winter of 2005-06. It has since been produced more than 600 times in theaters worldwide — including May 2012 at MHS!

Ms. Jordan is immensely proud of this year’s virtual production. "I love how we are all staying connected through this play which feels so close, yet is so far away,” she says. “It is magical to me."

This MHS production stars:

Linh Tran ’21

Jiho Shin ’21, Pete
Olivia McKeon ’23, Ginette
Olivia Kick-Nalepa ’22, East
Iva Knezevic ’24, Glory
Sophia Tillem ’24, Jimmy
Alida Perri ’24, Sandrine
Welmerly Maria ’24, Waitress
Hannah Holt ’21, Hope
Aurora Rahman ’23, Danny
Celcie Tetteh ’21, Lendall
Ollie Doerr ’21, Gayle
Lucy Garrison ’23, Shelly
Lily Sanzone ’24, Deena
Jana Schwarz ’23, Phil
Chelsie Li ’21, Marci
Kenja Harley ’23, Steve
Keely O’Gorman ’22, Marvalyn
Nya Mielke ’21, Dave
Isa Bretthauer ’22, Rhonda

Members of the crew include:

Stage Managers: Natasha Hagan ’21 and Linh Tran ’21
Assistant Stage Manager & Costume Assistant: Maddie Tillem ’24
Assistant Stage Manager & Prop Assistant: Molly Casey ’24
Sound Design: Milie Madourie ’22
Film Editing: Shirley Dong ’23, Kyla Gore ’24, Neda Dimolareva ’22, Maddie Tillem ’24, and Linda Le ’21