The actors and actresses of Peoples Academy are exploring the trauma that is borne out disaster, and the way people can rise and overcome.
The Peoples Academy Stage Company will perform “Strong: The Boston Marathon Project,” a series of monologues from people who were affected by the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013.
The students will perform the show as part of the State Drama Festival March 27-28 at Northern Vermont University-Johnson.
Before that, however, the thespians of Peoples Academy will perform at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 13-14, at Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park, where they will be joined by acting companies from Lamoille Union, Stowe High School, BFA Fairfax, BFA St. Albans, and United Christian Academy in Newport.
The author of the play, Page Monopli, is a friend of Dave Gabaree, director of Peoples Academy Stage Company.
Gabaree recalled reading the play during a visit from family from out of state.
“By the time they got out of Vermont, I said, ‘We have to do this thing,’” Gabaree said. “I knew which kids had auditioned and I just saw them immediately in the roles where they would be the second I read the play.”
The show is a far cry from a happy musical, but can high school actors handle such a heavy subject?
“These guys can,” Gabaree said. “There is something in this community and something in this area where they turn out thoughtful and intelligent and kind actors that I have been dealing with now for nine years. We’ve always had a strong group of actors who care about what is happening here, and care about the shows they perform.”
Madeline Moffett, an 18-year-old senior from Morrisville, plays Beth, whose leg was badly injured in the bombing.
“She normally went to the marathon every year and loved it and it’s a beautiful year and she talks about that and overall she’s a very positive person,” Moffett said. “It’s about going through her process of dealing with it, and it’s interesting because she has a very positive outlook and her husband, who only had hearing damage, does not have a positive outlook, so it’s about how people interpret the same event differently.”
So, how do you get into the head space to tackle a role like this?
“During the show, she has a panic attack and relives this very traumatic event in her life,” Moffett said. “Unfortunately — but, fortunately for this role — last year I had a house fire, so I do have some of those connections of reliving, like the way sounds affect me. That part is relatively easy to tap into.”
Peyton Bowen, 17, a senior from Morrisville who is about to perform in his 11th play at Peoples Academy, plays a student who is on a train with the other characters when the sound of a loud bite from an apple triggers trauma among the survivors.
“I really love the idea of acting and putting myself in someone else’s shoes,” Bowen said.
Nate Belanger, 18, a senior from Morrisville, plays José, an EMT who was there when the bombs went off.
“There’s a lot of trauma, a lot of emotions in dealing with everything, but also he recognizes the aftermath and the kind of pride that came from it and the strength that came out of the community,” Belanger said. “That’s the important message of the show — sometimes bad things happen, but it’s about bouncing back from that and what comes next.
“It’s unlike any other acting experience I’ve ever had before and it’s important to remember that this is a reality for some people and these are the challenges they went through and how they deal with them.”