Magic, love and Northern Lights: WRA's winter play will charm and delight

Magic, love and Northern Lights: WRA's winter play will charm and delight

All are invited to attend this year's winter play, "Almost, Maine," in the Knight Fine Arts Center.

Friday, January 24 | 8 p.m.

Saturday, January 25 | 8 p.m.

Sunday, January 26 | 2 p.m.

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On one cold winter night in the town of Almost, Maine, broken hearts are mended, shoes drop from the sky and the Northern Lights shine down on nine couples, from the love-struck to the lovelorn.

Each of their stories unfold in ten-minute vignettes, each taking place in different settings, in the same interval of time. Full of heart and charm and knee deep in whimsy, their stories are all about love and all of its possibilities.

Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty member and Director Donalee Ong had never heard of "Almost, Maine" until her son, Elliot '17, asked if she ever put on the show. Away at New York University's theater school, he kept hearing his classmates mention it, most of them having performed it at their high school. After reading the play, she could understand its prolificacy.

"It's the perfect play to bring in a large cast, all with relatively equal parts," she said. "For me, it was exciting to be able to cast 19 people, all of whom get to perform these 10-minute, sweet and poignant stories."

It's a lighter load for the performers who each have a relatively moderate number of lines to memorize and only one scene of blocking to learn. Rehearsals are more intimate, with Ong working with no more than three people in each scene, giving each cast member a chance to work closely with their scene partners and director.

"They've been doing such a great job," said Ong. "It's been really great to watch it come together and to see new performers really step out into the spotlight."

See a full cast list.

In the midst of a Northeast Ohio winter, this play just might be the cure to break up any seasonal blues. There's something soothing and sweet about these short stories, and even the sadder narratives are lifted by the charming and dreamlike moments of magic.

"In one story, this woman confronts her boyfriend about his commitment issues," Ong explained. "In the scene, she's dropping giant red bags at his feet, which are supposed to contain all the love she has ever given him. Each scene has a small element like that, something that isn't real."

The appearance of the Northern Lights is another thread connecting each narrative, and Technical Theater Director Brandon Davies shared that he's bringing in new equipment to project this beautiful display.

It's a technically heavy production, with nine set changes to take place, and in order to make each transition as smooth as possible, Ong and Davies decided to break with theater tradition.

"The crew won't be hiding the scene changes from the audience," Davies shared. "We're going to have the crew be an active part of the performance, which means they're going to be dressed in costume and a clearly visible part of the scene. And I think they've been pretty excited about this, since they're used to being more behind the scenes."

In the background of each scene, there will be snow-covered platforms and pine tree silhouettes, but further down stage will have the props and pieces that transport the audience to a new place in the town. There's a lot of moving parts, but the result will be a seemingly barebones design with little to hide behind - like a porch with an exposed frame and a single window flying in as a separate piece.

Perhaps there's something compelling about a minimal set; Davies certainly thinks so.

"The human brain is pretty amazing," he said. "Our ability to imagine what's going on with so little props can be really powerful, and it can be really effective. It's interesting how it really doesn't take much for an audience to pick up on the location and concept, and how they can just roll with it."

All are invited to attend this winter play, whether it's to take in the Northern Lights, enjoy a series of heartwarming stories or watch a talented and engaging cast and crew put on yet another incredible KFAC performance.