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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 11, 2010
With spare sets and complex characters, Dionysians explore loyalty and justice
By Saranac Hale Spencer
VOORHEESVILLE A score of high school students are taking on A Few Good Men for the high school’s fall production this year.
The Voorheesville Dionysians are addressing the hauntingly complex themes of loyalty, punishment, and justice by knowing their characters, said Portia Hubert, the play’s producer.
Each member of the cast thought about what is important to his character, what his goals are, and what he loves in life questions laid out by teaching assistant Matt Robinson, who is directing the play. The questionnaire came from John Lopez, who managed the drama club while Robinson was a member, he said. Robinson has since gone on to make his own films, one of which he took to the Cannes Film Festival last spring.
When Lopez managed the drama club, the school regularly performed two plays a year, but has recently done only a spring performance.
Late in the summer, Hubert said, she and Robinson decided to put on a fall show because students wanted to do a drama as opposed to a musical. Since the middle school had already begun planning a fall show on the district’s stage, the Dionysians needed a play with a minimal set. Robinson chose A Few Good Men, Aaron Sorkin’s 1989 Broadway drama about a court-martial that puts on trial the secretly endemic system of punishment meted out within Marine units stationed at Guantanamo Bay.
Students have traced the moral fallout in front of the backdrop for the middle school’s performance of The Three Musketeers: All Swash and No Buckle, while their scant courtroom props sit among painted lattice work on stucco walls during rehearsals.
The middle school has been very accommodating, Hubert and Robinson agreed, in sharing the stage with the high school’s drama club for practice this fall.
Practice has been the key to getting high school students to understand the context of the play, Robinson said, since they grasp it through their characters.
“They learn the characters first, then the rest comes naturally,” he said.
“Once they’re in it, they realize that they like that kind of challenge,” Hubert said of the students rising to challenge of expressing the intensity of the play’s subject matter.
“I don’t know if there is a moral message so much as questions that there aren’t answers to,” she said. Some of the questions, she said, are: To what extent do we need to go defend our country? How important is discipline? Is strict discipline required? If so, when?
“I really don’t think there are answers,” said Hubert.
Justina Miranda, who plays a tenacious and crusading young lawyer, has been grappling with some of those questions through her character, who, she said, is “definitely not what I’m like.”
“The rules drive her,” Miranda said of her character, who is guided by an unwavering moral compass. “Everything is black and white.”
Asked what she saw as the message of the play, Miranda said that it is important to stand up for what’s right and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. She concluded, “Maybe following an order isn’t always right.”
The Voorheesville Dionysians will perform A Few Good Men on Thursday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7:15 p.m. at the performing arts center in Voorheesville’s high school at 432 New Salem Rd. Tickets for adults are $8 and tickets for senior citizens and students are $5.