This year, Nantucket High School’s annual drama club fall production will be directed by senior Johannah Johnson. After the departure of the club’s previous advisor, Matt Huberman, the school struggled to find someone to take his place. Johnson volunteered to direct the show which is, Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. Alongside Johannah is her mother, Stephanie Johnson, new staff member, Elisa Gilgen, and longtime advisors, Mark and Barbara White.
“Mr. White started Drama Club over 20 years ago. Drama Club started because Mark loved working with Ms. Elder and her predecessor on the musicals, but not everyone has musical talent and there was a group who wanted to do non-musical drama. I joined as his helper about 15 years ago,” said retired NHS teacher and advisor of 35 years, Barbara White.
Stephanie Johnson described The Matchmaker as “a comedic play about a matchmaker who falls in love with her cranky, and uptight employer. She gets involved in everyone's relationships, which leads to chaos and, ultimately, love.” Stephanie Johnson went on to describe the structure of the play as a “farce in four acts” which centers around an array of characters in 1880’s New York City. Dolly Levi, played by sophomore Jenna Genthner, is a woman many talents who takes on the task of arranging the bitter Mr. Vandergelder’s wedding. Sophomore Benjamin Rudd plays the role of Mr. Vandergelder, a rich belligerent widower who maintains a grim perspective on society. However, things go astray when Mrs. Levi falls in love with her client and sends him on a wild goose chase. What follows are cases of mistaken identity, hide and seek, and overall, lots of love. This year, the cast is entirely composed of underclassmen. Sophomore Nicole LeBlanc plays Irene Molloy, the gold digging, fiery spirited milliner. Her squeamish, naive assistant, Minnie Fay is played by sophomore Seven Folger. Sophomores Beck Barsanti and Sawyer Phillips play Vandergelder’s adventure seeking workers, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker.
“We really like this show and feel it has a lot of good parts,” said White. “We always felt that one of the hardest parts of our job was in picking a play with enough parts,” said White. The annual drama club production has taken place at NHS for decades. When the former NHS drama club advisor left, the club was at a loss, leaving many wondering whether or not there will be a drama club at all. However, thanks to the support and dedication of the drama club team, the show will go on!
“Drama club has been a huge part of my high school experience. We have always been such a supportive group of people and we always become like a family,” said Johnson. “The prospects of having a show this year were dim, and I wanted to make sure that Drama Club continued this year. Thankfully Dr. Buckey put his faith in me, and along with my mother, who is adviser, I felt supported and able to take on this production,” said Johnson.
“(Johannah) is a young director in the making and is willing to take all the advice and guidance she can get. We hope that lots and lots of people come to see the play this year,” added White.
White also adds that “Drama Club is important because there are so many kids interested in performance and drama gives them lots of the tools and ability to be in front of people and perform with confidence. Drama teaches so much more than performance. Theater is the ultimate collaborative activity.” With Gilgen adding her personal experiences with theatre. “Theater helped me "get through" high school. .. Learning about all the different components of a production was fascinating. About 20 years ago, I rekindled my love for theater by volunteering at the Peacock Playhouse in Hayesville, NC. I was on stage in three productions, two with my kids, and helped run lights and sound for several other shows. The reason I wanted to be part of Nantucket High School's Drama Club is I know how rewarding seeing a show from start to finish is and what great lessons it teaches. Plus, I couldn't say no to Nicole, Johannah and Jackie!”
The Whites, who resigned as drama club advisors last year, were gracious enough to come and help out again.
“We came back this year because this is one of the most talented group of young actors we have ever seen and it is a privilege to work and coach them,” said White. “They take direction incredibly well and have had lots of experience at TWN, Dreamland and with Laura Gallagher Byrne. We have the experience with the stage and directing high school students and felt we could lend a helping hand this year as Drama Club is in transition.”
“It is exciting and crazy directing the show. I had previous experience directing children's theater, but it was a huge jump from directing kids to students my own age. All in all, I love it so much! It is whole other side to theater. The creative aspect of creating a show is full of possibilities and excitement,” says Johnson.
Stephanie Johnson also had similar feelings to express.
“I couldn't be more proud and thrilled with this amazing cast and crew. The show will be exceptional. Drama Club is instrumental in many aspects of children's development, it is a place to find out who you are, what you can do, and where you can go with it,” said Stephanie Johnson.” “ I am amazed by the talent of the actors and stage crew! The dedication each person has to making the production successful is inspiring. School is about much more than academics (although they are the most important things); we're not just learning school, we're learning life. Figuring out how to balance homework and extra-curricular activities and, often, other jobs, is real life. I'm thrilled to see students taking a large part of the leadership role in the production. I'm so happy NHS supports finding ways of meeting diverse interests,” said Gilgen.
Performance dates for the Matchmaker are November 17th, 18th at 7 pm and 20th at 2 pm in the Mary P Walker auditorium.