Westford Academy Wins State Championship for "Hairy Ape"
An interpretation of the 1922 Eugene O'Neill play earned the Westford Academy Theater Arts group one of the three state champion slots at last weekend's Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild finals in Boston.
Westford Academy’s Theater Arts troupe continued its trend of acting excellence last weekend with a nod as one of the three state champions in last weekend’s Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild finals in Boston.
The victory, which marked Westford’s third straight state championship and fourth in the past five years, came from a performance of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape”: a 1922 play about a laborer in Manhattan who is shunned by society to the point where he is forced to wrestle with a gorilla.
“This play was particularly difficult for us, it was a form of expressionism, which was new to the U.S when it was first introduced,” said Westford Academy Theater Arts spokesman Michael Towers. “We worked hard to familiarize ourselves with Eugene O’Neill as an artist and a think and as a man who had his own struggles growing up; he certainly gave us significant amounts of content to digest.”
Tower noted that usually the Westford Academy actors spend a month reading a play before any rehearsals, although that schedule was curtailed somewhat due to the company’s presentation of a Christmas Carol earlier this year. Still, the troupe had enough time for extensive physical training regimens, including weightlifting sessions for the male leads, in addition to their regular preparation.
Those having seen the play before may have noticed some differences due to the competition’s strict 40 minute limit on all entries, although Towers believes that the key parts of the approximately 70 minute play were left intact.
“I think we did a very good job of maintaining the whole arc, all eight scenes were kept. The play has some very heavy monologue, so we did some editing there,” he said. “A Eugene O’Neill scholar might see the difference, but we tried to stay very true to the script, and we were pretty proud of that.”
In addition to the victory, the group also received all-star nods for their set design, ensemble performance and costume design, in addition to an individual all-star award for Will Clark, who played the main role of Yank.
“This was a part (Clark) was born to play, he has an incredible physical presence and ability along with a powerful voice and face,” said Towers.
Westford was joined along with St. John’s Prep of Danvers, which did a presentation of MacBeth, and Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, with their entry of “Alchemy of Desire/Dead Man’s Blues.”