By RUSSELL JONES
Walking Stick Theater, Otter Valley’s theater department, was selected as one of only two high school productions to move on to the prestigious New England Drama Festival, held in Rhode Island this year, on April 15-17.
They were selected at the Vermont State Drama Festival at Essex High School two weeks ago. Walking Stick Theater has been chosen to move on to the New England Drama Festival three out of the past four years, which OV principal Jim Avery said is quite an accomplishment.
The department has also been chosen to attend the State Finals every year since 2011 and have been in the finals 13 out of the past 20 years that Jeff Hull has been the theater’s director.
“It is an honor to be selected as one of the two strongest performances for 2019,” Hull said. “This year is especially an honor as it is two consecutive years for Otter Valley to represent the state. For three of the students, Isaiah Nelson, Xander Bunker and Evelyn Bart, this is their third time going to the New England Drama Festival during their four years in high school.”
Hull said this production is different from what they have done in the past. “The Last Firefly” is a new retelling of several Japanese folktales.
“When working with this production we worked to blend several Asian theatrical styles into the production,” he said. “I wanted to expose the students to non-western theater, but at the same time make it relevant and exciting for our western views on theater.”
Hull said the students worked to honor the styles ranging from Bunraku, Kabuki to modern Anime. This production is also a piece of children’s theater, he said.
The fantastic story of Boom, the son of Thunder, is a mythical adventure about discovering one’s inner strength.
After being forced out of his home at the hand of his cruel stepfather, Boom sets out on a journey of self-discovery where he must courageously battle forces of nature. Along the way, he encounters conflict with the animals of an enchanted forest that will either help or hinder him in his quest.
The epic tale combines Japanese fairy tales and folklore to create an exciting theatrical experience for young people.
“This is a physical piece where the cast created theatrical fight sequences that use moving lightning bolts and flying rocks on stage, all done by company members wearing black morph suits,” said Hull. “Each of the seven actors portraying characters worked to create real personas to drive the piece’s story about family and courage in the face of adversity.” The play also features five musicians that create an entirely original soundscape to support the story. Hull said these five players play over 20 different instruments throughout the production.