Performing Arts Company’s One Act Festival Returns With Pirates, Baggage, And A Dead Butler

Photo: Lincoln Crockett directing the world premier of “The Butler is Dead” at the One Act Festival at Belmont High School.

The sad tales of unclaimed luggage, a murder mystery in which the butler didn’t do it and a verbally gifted pirate in search of a special someone.

These are just a few of the productions presented this week with the return of the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company’s Student Directed One Act Play Festival taking place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 12-14 at 7 p.m. in the Belmont High School Black Box Theater.

Tickets can be purchased online here. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

The annual production is back on stage after a two-year Covid hiatus with a mix of comedy, drama and everything in between.

”One Act is a form of theater that tries to condense a message that could be conveyed in a two hour straight play or musical into 10 minutes,” said senior Lincoln Crockett who is directing the world premier of “The Butler is Dead,” by Eli Barnes, a Belmont High graduate (2019) who wrote the work to be performed in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

See the accompanying video as Crockett goes prepares his cast for the production.

For two BHS PAC veterans who have taken up the mantel of senior director, the return to One Acts now brings new outlook to the theatrical process.

Leeza Pesok is co-directing with Giulia VecchiI “Emotional Baggage,” a one act about suitcases stuck at an airport’s unclaimed baggage counter and all the trauma and problems they go through while complaining about their lives.

“Yeah, it’s a comedy,” Pesok said.

Pesok’s fellow senior, Katie Shea, is directing “Jolly Jack Junior: The Buccaneer’s Bairn” with Talia Fiore, the tale about a pirate named Willie who has been on the hunt for someone special.

Q: What’s it like to be involved with the return of one acts after two years away?

Pesok: “My freshman year in 2019, I was in a One Act as an actor. Three years go by and, out of the blue, I’m now directing one. Seeing the production from the inside-out has given me a truly unique perspective on building a show from the bottom up as a director.

Shea: I was also in one acts my freshman year and being able to direct them now has been such a rewarding experience to see a side of production of theater that I’m not normally on.”

Leeza Pesok and Katie Shea

Q: Why did you select the plays you’re directing?

Pesok: “I just spend a couple of weeks reading different plays. And then this one just sort of jumped off the page. I could really visualize it. And I still can’t forget the moment in auditions when I heard people reading the lines for the first time after reading it for so long by myself. And it was then I just knew I made the right choice. Seeing it in rehearsals and working through it, I’m just so excited for audiences to see it.”

Shea: “When [Fiore and I] found Jolly Junior, we read the script to each other in these ridiculous British accents and we couldn’t stop laughing. We knew that this play would be so fun to produce.”

Q: Unlike a standard play or musical, one acts are known for having fairly sparse staging. How do you compensate for these limitation?

Pesok: “We don’t actually have talking suitcases on stage. The script provides a little brief description for each character – a threadbare Valise from the South or a drug smuggler’s duffel bag – and then we sort of take that and incorporate some character choices and that gives the actors a chance to make the stage come alive.”

Shea: “We were lucky enough to have plenty of pirate costumes left over from “Spongebob” [BHS PACs spring musical produced last month] so that actually worked out pretty well for us. And while we did create a minimalist pirate ship, you’ll definitely get the feel that it is one.

Q: What do you want the audience to take away from your one act?

Pesok: “When you when you go through an airport, you never really think about the experiences that their bags are going through and how it must feel being carried around through your whole life. It’s cool to see all the actors connecting with different aspects of each bags life; how one was meant to go to a Realtor’s convention in Florida but got left behind and she’s so upset about it. It’s a really fun perspective to have when you just are a person and not a suitcase.”

Shea: “We’re just looking for people to have a good time and sit there and laugh for a little bit. The plot of our show is ridiculous: there’s so many made-up words in the dialogue that are supposed to be ‘pirate’ language. The actors have done an amazing job of really bringing it to life on stage. So we just hope people have fun.”

The plays include:

SURPRISE By Mark Harvey Levine
Directed by Grace Sattler
Peter’s psychic abilities are driving his date, Whitney, slowly insane.

JOLLY JACK JUNIOR: THE BUCCANEER’S BAIRN By Jeff Goode
Directed by Katie Shea and Talia Fiore
Looking for revenge, pirate Willy boards a pirate ship and demands an audience with the captain… but instead finds a secret to his past.

ALIEN MONSTER BOWLING LEAGUE By Matthew Lopez
Directed by Emily Kaiser
The arrival of Aliens is threatening Hubbard’s long reign as Bowling League Champion.

HE’S REALLY A GREAT GUY By Rory Leahy
Directed by Chris Jorgenson
Matt wants his friend Dan to get out more and meet someone special, so he sets up a double date with Heather and Annie, but Dan’s secret inner life could be a deal breaker.

1-900-DESPERATE By Christopher Durang
Directed by Claire Svetkey
Gretchen, alone on a Saturday night, impulsively calls 1-900-DESPERATE, a hotline for desperate single people. But you never know who you’ll meet on an open phone line.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE By Nina Shengold
Directed by Leeza Pesok and Giulia Vecchi
It’s hard to be a suitcase at the Unclaimed Baggage counter.

THE FIRST NIGHT OF CHANUKAH By Sheri Wilner
Directed by Naomi Stephenson
David Schwartz is the only jew stranded in the Devil’s Lake, North Dakota airport on the first night of Chanukah – until he encounters another traveler with a link to the (historically real) turn of the century Jewish homesteaders in North Dakota.

THE BUTLER IS DEAD By Eli Barnes (World Premier)
Directed by Lincoln Crockett
Several important guests show up to a business meeting at a fancy manor, only to find that murder occurs. *gasp* The butler must have done it…. But…. The butler is dead!

Tickets On Sale For ‘The SpongeBob Musical,’ Performances March 17-19

Photo: The colorful poster for

Tickets are on sale beginning on March 1 for the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company production of “The SpongeBob Musical” based on the series by Stephen Hillenburg.

Performances take place on Thursday and Friday, March 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Belmont High School Theater.

TICKETS: ADULTS: $15 CHILDREN/STUDENTS: $10 ($5 tickets for Belmont High School students on Thursday and Saturday Matinee) Tickets on sale at bhs-pac.org starting March 1.

Ticketing for shows will be only online, and advance purchase of tickets is strongly encouraged, as all performances are expected to sell out.

Based on the Nickelodeoon Cartoon, The Spongebob Musical is a fun-filled adventure about an unlikely hero trying to save his underwater home from being destroyed. Featuring the iconic character from the TV show and songs written by a long list of pop, rock, and musical theater stars, The Spongebob Musical is entertainment for audiences of all ages as well as an allegory about climate change, accepting differences and the importance of friendship and community.

The cast of 45 students showcase their physical and vocal acting skills, taking on the roles of many of the well-known characters from the show as well as an ensemble of undersea characters including a rock trio of electric eels, tap dancing anemones, cult-worshiping sardines, down-on-their-luck pirates and more.

The technical elements of the show will show off the new theater. The set crew has built a coral reef to serve as a backdrop, in addition to Spongebob’s iconic pineapple home, a rock that transforms into a hot tub and more.

Our costumes crew has created a colorful array of costumes that use a 70’s disco-inspired style to evoke the colors and feel of a tropical aquarium. The props crew is building a number of unique items including a jetpack, scientific machines and more. The sound and lighting crews will get to take advantage of state-of-the-art technology in the new building, creating visual and audio effects to transform the theater into an underwater paradise.

WHO IS THE SHOW APPROPRIATE FOR:
The Spongebob Musical is appropriate for all ages. The witty humor, catchy tunes and engaging story will also keep adults entertained and those who have seen the TV will know that the characters and visual elements are fun for children of all ages.

COVID PROTOCOL INFORMATION:

At the present moment, current protocols require audience members attending events at Belmont High School to be masked in the lobby theaters and bathrooms. There will be a designated eating area in the cafeteria where concessions can be consumed unmasked at intermission.

Some performers will be unmasked on stage; all performers are fully vaccinated. There is a possibility that the town/school policies may change prior to the performance dates. Audience members should check the PAC Website for up-to-date information about Covid/mask policies prior to attending the show. Anyone experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 should not attend performances. You can reference the Boston Public School Symptom Checker here.

Winter Improv Show Set For Friday, Saturday In The Black Box

Photo: The poster of the Winter Improv Show

The Belmont High School Performing Arts Company will be holding its Winter Improv Show on Friday, Feb. 4 and Saturday, Feb. 5 at at 7 p.m. in the Belmont High School Black Box Theater.

Fun for all ages, the Improv Show is a high-energy performance, made up on the spot from audience suggestions.

Admission: Free for Belmont High School staff and students. $5 for all others.

Advance ticket purchases are encouraged (BHS Students/Staff can get free tickets at school during lunch, all others can buy tickets online). 

Ticket sales and more info at bhs-pac.org 

COVID GUIDELINES FOR THOSE ATTENDING PERFORMANCES THIS YEAR:

  1. MASKS WILL BE REQUIRED for all audience members.
  2. Food/drinks will not be allowed in performance spaces.
  3. The size of our Black Box Theater means that there is not a guarantee of distancing for audience members. We encourage family units to sit together, but at sold out shows, you will be seated directly adjacent to others.
  4. Anyone experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 should not attend performances. You can reference the BPS Student Symptom Checker here.

BHS Performing Arts Company Presents ‘The Servant Of Two Masters’ For Fall Play

Photo: From the poster of The Servant of Two Masters presented by the BHS PAC on Nov. 18-20.

The Belmont High School Performing Arts Company is presenting its fall play, THE SERVANTS OF TWO MASTERS, on Thursday, Nov. 18, Friday, Nov. 19, and Saturday, Nov. 20 in the high school’s Black Box Theater.

Written by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni in 1746 and revised in 1789, The Servant of Two Masters is a comedy for audiences of all ages. Based on the traditional Commedia dell’arte, the play features physical comedy, wordplay, music, slapstick gags, wild costumes, candy colored scenery, and a madcap plot that will leave your head spinning.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for children and $5 for BHS students/staff. Tickets can be purchased online, and advance ticket purchase recommended as these performances sell out.

Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with a special 2:40 p.m. performance on Friday just for BHS students/staff.

Details about the show and ticket sales at bhs-pac.org

As we invite audiences back into our schools, here are some guidelines for those who plan to attend theater events this year:

  1. MASKS WILL BE REQUIRED for all audience members.
  2. Food/drinks will not be allowed in performance spaces.
  3. The size of our Black Box Theater means that there is not a guarantee of distancing for audience members. We encourage family units to sit together, but at sold out shows, you will be seated directly adjacent to others.
  4. Some students performing on stage for theater events will be unmasked. These students have been required by the Belmont School Committee to be vaccinated.
  5. Anyone experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 should not attendperformances. You can reference the BPS Student Symptom Checker here.

We appreciate your compliance with these requirements. 

Preforming Arts Co.’s ‘Broadway Night’ To Show Off Belmont High’s New Black Box

Photo: The finale of BHS PAC Broadway Night (thanks to BHS PAC)

The Belmont High School Performing Arts Company is returning after a year-and-a-half in the virtual sphere to all live performances with its annual “Broadway Night: Musical Theater Cabaret” this weekend, Oct. 22 and 23 at 7 p.m.

To celebrate its homecoming, the in-school group will welcome the audience to its new home: The Black Box Theater on the first floor of the recently opened high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School. The space has professional lighting and sound as well as flexible seating configurations that will allow for a greater audience experience.

Students artists will perform classic and contemporary works of musical theater consisting of solo/duet/small groups songs which are primarily self-directed which will showcase the acting, singing and dancing talents of the PAC members. And with every year, there will be a final song and dance performed by the entire company.

Tickets are $5 for students/children and $12 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online, and advance ticket purchase recommended: shows, as always, are expected to sell out!

Details about the show and ticket sales at bhs-pac.org

Due to As we prepare to invite audiences back into our schools, here are some guidelines for those who plan to attend theater events this year:

  • MASKS WILL BE REQUIRED for all audience members.
  • Food/drinks will not be allowed in performance spaces.
  • The size of our Black Box Theater means that there is not a guarantee of distancing for audience members. We encourage family units to sit together, but at sold out shows, you will be seated directly adjacent to others.
  • Some students performing on stage for theater events will be unmasked. These students have been required by the Belmont School Committee to be vaccinated.
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 should not attend performances. You can reference the BPS Student Symptom Checker here.

Belmont High School Performing Arts Company Ends the School Year with TWO Shows On Friday Over The Weekend

Photo: Posters for both shows this weekend

As the days in the school year have entered single digits, the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company is ending it was a bang with two shows, one live and the other virtual.

  • Friday, June 11: A LIVE improv show outdoors
  • Saturday/Sunday, June 12-13: The Streaming Premiere of Some Enchanted Evening 

Details about both shows below and at bhs-pac.org

OUTDOOR IMPROV SHOW

The PAC Improv Troupe is performing a full show of our favorite games and scenes. Fresh off the success of our May Show, we’ll be back at Clay Pit Pond – near the Veteran’s Memorial at the corner of Underwood – with more improvisers, more games and more laughs. Friday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m.

FREE for everyone, registration/sign up ahead of time requested. Sign up at http://bhs-pac.org/improv-show

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING

The PAC’s Spring Musical is a celebration of the Golden Age of Musical Theater.  A collection of songs and scenes from classic musicals, the production showcases the work of our talented student performers and crew.

This production honors great composers, iconic shows and groundbreaking work, including songs from shows that you aren’t likely to see full productions of on the PAC stage. We’re thrilled to give our students and audiences the opportunity to experience this material.

The show is free to watch, but donations are encouraged.

  • Watch on the PAC Website (bhs-pac.org). The show premieres online June 12 at 7 p.m.
  • The show will also air on Belmont Media Center TV (Comcast Ch 96/Verizon Ch 30) on Saturday, June 12, and Sunday, June 13 at 7 PM.

Friday’s Online Trivia Night To Benefit Belmont High’s Performing Arts Company

Photo: This year’s BHS-PAC Trivia Night poster

There’s nothing trivial about Trivia Night being held this Friday by the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company.

Last year the popular event, hosted by Parents of Performing Arts Students (PATRONS), raised over $3,500 to support the PAC, with the funds going toward expenses such as props, costumes, lighting and sound equipment, theater workshops, student awards, and scholarships.

This year’s edition takes place, once again, online this Friday, March 12, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Individual tickets are $15, and patrons can join teams of up to eight people.

Because there hasn’t been much opportunity for students to socialize, PATRONS is following up the Friday night adults-only competition with a Saturday night, March 13 trivia event just for students. While purchasing tickets, donors will have the option to sponsor a student participant with a $10 donation.

“Trivia Night is always a lot of fun,” said Carolyn Boyle, co-president of PATRONS. “Supporting theater during a pandemic is hard, but the kids work really hard to produce quality shows and it’s worth it. We’re excited that the online format will allow friends and relatives who don’t live in Belmont to participate.” Boyle noted that director Ezra Flam and his team of trivia ringers usually dominate the night.

Sign up at the Performing Arts Company website, www.bhs-pac.org. Top finishers will receive prizes donated by local businesses along with year long bragging rights.

Broadway Night Is Here! Streaming Online This Weekend

The Performing Arts Company’s annual musical theater cabaret known as Broadway Night goes virtual in 2020. Filmed live following safety guidelines developed with Belmont School Administrators and the Town’s Health Department, the show will begin streaming online this weekend.

Broadway Night will premiere Friday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. on the Performing Arts Company’s Website (bhs-pac.org), and air on Belmont Media Center TV (Comcast Ch. 9, Verizon Ch 29).

Performances of “Broadway Night” by the Belmont High School’s Performing Arts Company.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1e_Lp0YMeM2-E_WQQB1ZdRqG691jcZVHN

The show will have a second airing on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. After this weekends, performances will be available online to stream any time.

Broadway Night is the PAC’s annual Musical Theater Cabaret, which kicks off the season. Students perform classic show tunes and contemporary work from new musical theater composers in an evening of song, dance and storytelling. ​

Performances of “Broadway Night” by the Belmont High School’s Performing Arts Company.

Each year the show features more than 20 solo, duet and group songs, with a mix of humor, heart, romance and high-energy fun, plus a dance number, choreographed by the PAC Musical Choreographer Jenny Lifson and an all-freshman number directed by upperclassmen.

This year we have added an all-senior dance, an all-senior song and two other group numbers directed by upperclassmen. In addition, Tech Crew has created outdoor theater, complete with lighting and sound, and is learning video recording skills to capture to largest Broadway Night the PAC has ever produced.

​Broadway Night represents the core mission of the PAC, with an emphasis on showcasing student work. The performers have selected, staged and rehearsed the songs almost entirely on their own, with just a small amount of guidance from Ms. Lifson. In addition, the tech is done entirely by students, and four group numbers were directed by students.

Broadway Night is available to watch online for free, but all of the lighting, sound, scenery and video costs of the show are supported by donations. Audience members are encouraged to make a donation on the PAC website to support this show and future 2020-21 productions.

Performing Arts Company Presents ‘Shrek The Musical’

Photo: The poster for Shrek The Musical by the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company.

The Belmont High School Performing Arts Company 2020 annual spring musical is Shrek The Musical.

Shrek is the tale of an unlikely hero who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey and a feisty princess who resists her rescue. Throw in a short-tempered bad guy, a cookie with an attitude and over a dozen other fairy tale misfits, and you’ve got the kind of mess that calls for a real hero. Luckily, there’s one on hand… and his name is Shrek.

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek The Musical is a Tony Award-winning fairy tale adventure, bringing all the beloved characters you know from the film to life on stage, with music by Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Caroline, or Change) and book by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Performances will take place in the Belmont High School auditorium on:

  • THURSDAY, MARCH 19 at 7 p.m.
  • FRIDAY, MARCH 20 at 7 p.m.
  • SATURDAY, MARCH 21 at 2 p.m and 7 p.m.
TICKET INFO: 
  • ADULTS: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
  • STUDENTS/CHILDREN: $10

WHERE TO GET TICKETS:

Tickets are now on sale online and at Champions Sporting Goods in Belmont Center.

More information at bhs-pac.org

‘All Animals Are Equal …’ BHS PAC’s ‘Animal Farm’ In Performance Nov. 7-9

Photo: Poster for the play

You may have read it, you certainly have heard about it and we may be living it. Now is your chance to see it on stage as the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company presents an adaptation of George Orwell’s story “Animal Farm” in three performances Nov. 7-9 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont High School auditorium.

Tickets are:

  • Adults: $12 advance sale/$15 at the door.
  • Children/students: $5 Thursday/$10 Friday and Saturday
  • Belmont High Students: $5.

Tickets are available at Champions Sports in Belmont Center or online at bhs-pac.org

From an allegorical novella by George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four) Animal Farm demonstrates that best intentions could lead to bad consequences: after staging a successful revolution against their human masters, a group of farm animals establishes a communal society, only to see it devolve into the corrupt regime of a power-hungry dictator.

Remember: “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

The play resonates with many of the issues the world faces today: the rise of totalitarianism and demagoguery, massive wealth inequality, gaslighting propaganda and fake news, cults of popularity disguised as populism, and the use of violence to solve problems. But the play grounds these topics in a vivid immediate reality. And while the book was clearly an allegory about the rise of Stalinism when it was originally written, the story feels eerily contemporary.

The production does not attempt to shoehorn the play into one particular interpretation or historical setting, according to PAC’s director Ezra Flam.

“The surprise of the show is not what happens, but how you get there,” noted Flam. How do good people let bad things happen – and even participate in making decisions that go against their own interests, challenge their self-concepts, or actually violate their memories and their grip on reality?

The play takes place on the Manor farm, where the alcoholic human farmer Mr. Jones has been mistreating the animals and mismanaging the farm. At the urging of Old Major, a boar held in high esteem by the animals, the residents of the farm take matters into their own hands, oust Mr. Jones, and rename the farm “Animal Farm.” Led by two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, the new community establishes a society built on egalitarian principles, universal education, and long-missing economic efficiency.

But soon the elation of their utopia gives way to doctrinal squabbles, propaganda fights, and vicious power plays, and everyone scrambles to choose the right side or be swept away by the tide of corruption growing in the center of their idyllic community.

By the end of the play, one of the early leaders has been banished, kangaroo courts have sent many innocent people to their deaths, and the farm has turned out worse than it ever was under the misguided administration of the humans.

In his notes of the show. Flam said this production showcases what the Performing Arts Company does best: give actors and stage crew the chance to learn about theater by creating a fully realized production.

Making the show happen has engaged the efforts of more than just the cast of 26 actors. More than 75 students are part of the backstage crew: building and painting scenery, making costumes, creating lighting and sound effects, constructing props and working as production assistants.

But Animal Farm has called on even more than the usual set of skills.

The actors and crew must tell a story that exists on multiple levels, said Flam. The cast must tell a deeply allegorical story that decries totalitarianism both in its Stalinist expression but which echoes into the current day. For example, they were both schooled in Soviet history and watched videos of Brexit arguments in Parliament to prepare for their roles.)

They must enact vicious moment-by-moment power plays, oppression, and experiences of terror, all while thoroughly respecting their fellow actors. And they must tell this harrowing story in the guise of farm animals – and not as they might portray a cow in the stable of a Christmas play, but in a way that captures the nuances of animal characteristics without devolving into caricature.

“They can’t just play a horse like you might in fourth grade,” Flam explains. “The actors need to do a play that tells a story on the surface but underneath tells deeper stories.” Whether pig, sheep, or horse, the actors must tell a profoundly human story.

Likewise, the production crew has worked diligently to help create the world of the story. The students on the costumes crew, under the guidance of Costume Designer Lila West and in conjunction with the actors themselves, have created a wealth of costumes that evoke rather than explicitly depict animals. Through costume pieces and improvised movement, the cast and crew create a world of animals without yielding to literal representation.

Meanwhile, the collaborative efforts of the cast and student set crew, led by Scenic Designer Anna Moss and Technical Director Ian O’Malley, have produced a set that evokes a farm but allows the audience to grasp the timeless themes of the story.