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Arlington students present ‘The Fantasticks’
ARLINGTON — On a cloudy day in August a handful of high school students were making Arlington history — they were rehearsing a musical. This September “The Fantasticks” will be brought to life in the Linda M. Byrnes Performing Arts Center as the first entirely student directed and produced main stage show ever attempted at the high school.
“The Fantasticks” will delight audiences with familiar songs and a familiar subject, love. Follow the young hero and heroine, Matt and Luisa, as they fall madly in and out of love. This quintessential coming of age story combines enchanting music, witty dialogue and deeper questions about the nature of our relationships with one another; a combination that leaves us both charmed and thoughtful.
As the longest-running show in Broadway history, “The Fantasticks” is no small undertaking, but Arlington High School seniors Nathan Haskew and Nathan Braaten are more than ready to tackle the challenge. Both veterans of the AHS drama department stage, Haskew and Braaten share the responsibility for the success of the production and served as the director and musical director, respectively.
But these aren’t the only roles that are traditionally held by adults. Tasks such as costumer, prop coordinator and makeup artist are being undertaken by other regulars of the AHS stage. Seniors Lexi Lewis and Makayla Markenzinis, like Haskew and Braaten, will be getting senior culminating project credit for their participation in putting together these technical aspects of the show. To meet the requirements of the senior project, students must participate in a new experience. Thus, these students are all taking on jobs in the theatre they’ve never tried before.
“Acting in a show is in some ways much easier than directing one,” said Haskew. “I’ve really gained an appreciation for how much work it takes backstage and behind the scenes, it looks easy, but it’s not.”
There is no denying that putting on a musical is hard work. But things get extra complicated when rehearsals, which began as soon as school ended for the year, have to be worked around family vacations, summer camps, doctor appointments and the work schedules of the eight actors in this comparatively small cast.
“It’s been a test of our improvisational skills as directors,” laughed Braaten. “Especially since this is an intimate show, without any fancy sets to hide behind. The focus is completely on our actors and its success depends on their abilities. But they have more than risen to the challenge. think our audience is going to see not only the talent of this cast, but also their passion and drive.”
“This show is simply special,” said Miller. “It’s entertaining, thought provoking, and a brilliant piece of American theatre, but there’s more to it than that. I’ve acted in six other shows here at AHS and I think “The Fantasticks” is going to be memorable because we are setting such an important precedent. Being trusted to do this ourselves is more than an incredible chance to learn, it’s preparing those of us who want to go into theatre seriously to pursue our dreams.”
It’s been a dream six years in the making for AHS drama teacher Scott Moberly. “The ultimate success for any teacher is watching one’s students rise to the challenge of producing their own work and demonstrating that they are ready for independence. I’ve wanted to do student-run productions since I began teaching at AHS, and I feel this is the right time and the right group of kids to really show our community what they can do.”
The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. on Sept. 23 and 24 and Moberly is looking forward to being in the audience. “The support this community shows our drama students is phenomenal. I’m confident that they will come through again this year and help us celebrate just how fantastic our students really are by coming to see this musical.”
Tickets are $7 at the door and all seats are first come, first served and there will be no advanced ticket sales.
Caroline Rensel graduated from AHS last year and is a freshman at Whitman College.