Men on Boats Makes Waves at METG

Dora Stodolsky, Contributing Writer

The Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild (METG) offers year-round performance art programs throughout Massachusetts, and is best known for its competitive high school drama festival. The drama festival celebrates its 91st anniversary this year, as well as its first competition free of COVID-19 limitations since the pandemic began. The festival has three rounds: preliminary, semi-final, and final. In each round, participating schools perform a short play in under 40 minutes, and must assemble their set in 5 minutes before the show. CRLS has a long and successful history with the festival—this year is no different. 

The CRLS actors had the audience splitting their sides with laughter.

On March 4th and 5th, 88 schools competed in the preliminary round. CRLS proceeded to the semi-final round after performing an adaptation of Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus. Men on Boats is the dramatized true story of a group of explorers, led by their one-armed captain, during an expedition to the Grand Canyon in 1869. The historical production features only 10 actors and shines a spotlight on each one, uncovering backstories and developing relationships. Mr. Brett Cramp, Theatre Arts teacher and director of Men on Boats, said to the Register Forum, “I was drawn to the comedic aspect of the piece and the challenges it offered us in regards to character and staging.” Mr. Cramp also felt passionately about the modern perspective Men on Boats approaches casting with. “Men On Boats intentionally goes against the cis[gender], white male historical figures the play [features] and calls for actors that are diverse in gender, race, ethnicity, etc.” 

At the preliminary round, the CRLS actors had the audience splitting their sides with laughter. The Men on Boats cast displayed flawless chemistry, seamlessly coordinated movement, and hysterical charisma. The synchronized physicality brought the rivers of the Grand Canyon to life, as did the actors’ use of the full performance space. Actress Beza Mekonnen ’24 told the Register Forum, “Learning the choreography was difficult and time-consuming, but we prioritized it because it added so much to performance.” 

The show blended westward expansion with moments of modern language that had the festival judges chuckling the whole 40 minutes. The production was further enhanced by thoughtful and effective tech support. Costumer Ava Weinstein ’25 said to the Register Forum that the costume team “wanted to draw on the historical photographs of John Wesley Powell’s expedition, but tailor each outfit to portray the unique traits of each character for the stage.” The layered costuming drew the audience further into the world of the expedition, as well as dramatic lighting and well-timed sound effects. 

The production received the Stage Manager Award for being communicative and gracious at the host site. Julia Teller ’24, Maisy Branch ’24, and Solana Vanegas ’24 all received All Star Excellence in Acting awards. Kiera Ventola ’25, Anna Kotowicz ’25, and Ava Weinstein ’25 received an award for Costume Design and Excellence as well. The crew will move on to the semi-finals on March 18th, where they will undoubtedly continue their success. 

This article also appears in our March 2023 print edition.