Many of you already know the story of the Maiden High School production of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, shuttered by school officials this fall due to the content of a single scene in which two men discover that they love one another. The cancellation rightly got a great deal of attention, not least because Almost, Maine is the most popular new play done in high schools nationally, a widely accepted work that hit a wall in one North Carolina town due to the school administration caving in to their own worst instincts and to outside pressure, even though the source of the pressure managed to remain under the radar.
So in the season of love and good cheer, it seems the optimal time to affirm that Almost, Maine will go on next month, with students taking the show off campus, producing it independently in a nearby town with the help of Carmen Eckard, a former teacher who taught a number of the students when they were in elementary school.
Hosted by the United Arts Council of Catawba County, Almost, Maine will be presented at the SALT Block Auditorium in Hickory NC on January 15, 16 and 17 at 8 pm. While there have been some shifts in the cast, the production will feature seven current Maiden High students, two recent graduates and a Maiden High student as stage manager. Conner Baker, the student who was directing the show at the school has joined the cast, so she’ll be co-directing the show with a local attorney, William Morgan, who previously directed the show at an area community theatre.
Many familiar with this story will also recall that in order to produce the show independently, Eckard and Baker launched a Kickstarter campaign that sought to raise $1,000 to cover expenses. That effort yielded over $6,500 in funds, and with program ad sales, the production is sure to bring in yet more revenue by mid-January. In a bright silver lining to the cloud cast by the school’s censorship, the bulk of the donations to the production will be shared by the Arts Council and OutRight Youth Catawba, which seeks, in their words, “to reduce the isolation felt by LGBTQ youth by providing a sense of community and developing programs and services to counteract the prejudice and oppression that LGBTQ youth often face.”
Both tickets and program ads are available from the production’s website: http://almostmaiden.com
As for a fall show at the high school, I’m told there was no replacement once Almost, Maine was nixed. That’s a loss for every student at the school and a black eye for every administrator, school board member and community member who worked to shut down Almost, Maine. I can only hope they’ll all make the short trip from Maiden to Hickory to support the show and the students who kept it going – and to, in part, counteract a narrow-minded decision that gave in to suppression of young people’s ambitions and lives, rather than standing for love.