First-Year Show Brings Together Original Short Plays

By HATTIE LeFAVOUR

BENJY RENTON/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
“You Are Here” not only starred first years, but was also written and directed by students and alumni.

The cast of “You Are Here,” the 23rd annual First Year Show, launched their Middlebury acting careers this past week with timely messages of self-exploration and love. The show, written entirely by  students and alumni, took place in the Hepburn Zoo from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6 and consisted of short plays cut with dramatic performances of poetry. The segments were thematically strung together by the concepts of identity and belonging, giving both the show and cast a feeling of cohesion.

The first short play, titled “The Meaning of Things,” written by Emily Ma ’21, expertly hammered down the persisting theme of human experience and introspection with a scene familiar to most college students. Featuring Liv and Kiera, played by Cecelia Scheuer ’21 and Melanie Chow ’22, respectively, the scene takes place in the back room of a party where the two girls mock the seeming frivolity of their college lives and provide passionate commentary on the “fuzzy in-between world of clamped down impulses” that we live in. The familiarity of the characters and Liv’s ardent calls to let yourself feel and want, unsubdued, provide the light that the rest of the show is seen through.

The remaining performances include an array of topics such as ambivalent phone calls to Mom, an existential debate surrounding classification of an “unclassifiable” person in an alternate world, our place within the changing seasons and two lovers who seem to have known each other in another time. 

Pulling the most laughs was a short play titled “Sam and Ava” written by Cole Merrell ’21 featuring Sam, a man looking for relationship advice played by Gibson Grimm ’22, and Ava, the Siri-esque artificial intelligence voice that provides it, played by Ryan Opelia-Young ’22. Of his role, Opelia-Young said that he’s glad he could start his Middlebury acting career with a “more comedic character,” which quickly became apparent to the audience. Ava provides advice in the form of cheerful, attitude-ridden quips that contrast the complex emotional issue faced by Sam, reinforcing the universality of our experiences while also providing some lighthearted relief.

The most notable of the poetry, all of which was written by Sam Boudreau ’19, is titled “F-A-T” and is performed through a “dance party” in celebration of body fat. The cast emphatically screams their appreciation for their own bodies while dancing around in piles of Oreo wrappers, conveniently left over from the previous scene in which a girl destroys the anthropomorphized version of her own guilt by finally allowing herself to enjoy Oreos without wishing she hadn’t. (It’s reported that, along with the many hours of rehearsal put in by the cast and crew, they had the arduous task of eating all of the Oreos together beforehand.)

The final play, “Sam and Madeleine,” also written by Merrell, was the most personal and elegant of the show. This heartfelt scene, featuring Francis Price ’22 as Sam and Nimaya Lemal ’21.5 as Madeleine, was a pure conversation between two lovers getting to know each other. Lemal described the scene as “honest and simple and hopeful,” and said that she felt attached to the scene for the feeling it emoted of “looking for one beautiful, reliable thing in your life that is simply good — and wanting to share it with someone you love.” 

The scene drew in the audience emotionally while physically drawing in the rest of the actors, who rose from the side-stage shadows to gather around the two characters. Here the show ended, with the cast echoing the final line of the play: an answer to the question, “If you could go anywhere in the universe right now, where would you go?” to which Sam and the rest of the cast reply: “I’d stay right here.”

BENJY RENTON/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
The short scenes centered on a range of topic, including college life and romance.

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First-Year Show Brings Together Original Short Plays