Drama to perform ‘Almost, Maine’ as fall play

September 30, 2023 — by Christina Labban & Mindi Hendley
Ariana Tootoonchi and Ryan Cagliostro rehearse for their scene in the play, “Almost, Maine."
There is a certain magic that comes alive when stories of love, hope and human connection take center stage, a reminder of what it means to be human. This magic is a feeling that the drama department seeks to recreate through this year’s fall production, “Almost, Maine.”

The play started production on Sept. 16 and will premiere on Nov. 11 in the McAfee Center. The play uses a unique narrative format: The stories of several vignettes all unfold simultaneously, but are presented at different times throughout the play. 

“Almost, Maine” is set on a winter night in Maine when the Northern Lights create an otherworldly atmosphere. The play delves into themes of desire and connection through its overarching message about the courage it takes to open yourself up to new possibilities. A few of the town’s couples experience the life-changing power of the human heart, and relationships start, end and alter far beyond recognition.  

“It’s a play about making connections with another human being. And we’re still struggling, as a society, with opening up to making a connection with another person,” drama director Benjamin Brotzman said. “The play will bring people together and broaden their horizons, and I thought that would be good for the growth of our department.”

Ultimately, he said, “Almost, Maine” takes a deeper look into the connections we make during life. Its themes of endearment and vulnerability are timeless, exploring the intricacies of relationships and the beauty of believing — a theme which Brotzman hopes will resonate with audiences of all ages.

 In conjunction with this unique format, Brotzman said that standards and expectations have been set high, making the behind-the-scenes process complex compared to previous years. 

Differing from previous productions that had more concrete locations, the setting for this production is set in a mythical and imaginary town in Maine, which Brotzman says will be “difficult to bring to life.” The set design will depict a cold, starless night in winter, utilizing green and blue lights to appeal to the play’s fantasy and imitate the Northern Lights that are so instrumental to the plot. 

This year, the production also includes workshops aimed at bringing the cast out of their comfort zones. Exercises include putting an arm around someone or holding hands. Brotzman shares the goal is to ensure the cast feels secure with one another, translating into a more authentic and real performance.

The cast includes Patrick Keogh as Pete, Ria Abraham as Ginette, Caitlin Weber as East, Mia Ouchida as Glory, Apollo Burgess as Jimmy, Annaliese Shab as Sandrine, Misha Khairom, Bella Huesca, Ananya Ravi and Milani James as the Bachelorette Party Girls, Norah Heller as the Waitress, Kiana Saadieh as the Bartender, Katie Berger as Steve, Marvalyn as Nila Venkataratnam, Ariana Tootoonchi as Gayle and Phil, Ryan Cagliostro as Lendall, Ananya Ravi as Deena, Milani James as Shelly, Ashly Henry as Marci, Ella Tamas King as Hope, Araceli Lublinerman as Danny, Misha Khairom as Suzette, Vivienne Brooks as Rhonda, and Cosmo Cooper as Dave. The assistant director is Rylee Stanton, scenic designer is Cris Vaughan, and costume designer is Jenny Garcia. 

King said the unique nature of the workshops will prove to be pivotal to the play’s production. “I’m interested to see how people will react to being able to overcome being uncomfortable and adapting to another person, because intimacy and relationships are a big part of the production,” King said. “I have really high hopes for this play because everyone is starting to bond and is putting in a lot of effort.” 

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