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Theater groups acting up this month

Duxbury High actors Jared McCourt and Skyler Wright rehearse a scene for “Proof,” which will be performed at the Duxbury Performing Arts Center.

Karen Wong

Duxbury High actors Jared McCourt and Skyler Wright rehearse a scene for “Proof,” which will be performed at the Duxbury Performing Arts Center.

Theater groups young and old are taking to the stage this month.

This weekend the Massachusetts High School Festival enters its semifinal stage, with 46 drama clubs performing in seven locations, including local auditoriums in Duxbury, Brockton, Sharon, and Norwood. Two other south-of-Boston high school drama clubs perform at other sites.

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Later this month community theater claims the spotlight when the Duxbury Bay Players mount their production of “The Odd Couple.”

Followers of the annual high school festival say the schools’ one-act performance pieces, polished from months of rehearsals and previous performances, draw fine work from young people serious about theater.

“Many are intent on pursuing drama at the college level and beyond,” said Hannah Roveto, a member of a parent group that supports the Duxbury theater department.

“Even if you’re not going to go into it professionally, you learn to get up to speak, to memorize, and to work as a team,” said Roveto, whose freshman daughter, Julia, is working on the lighting crew. “We’re lucky to have this amazing theater program.”

One Duxbury High performer has already acted in a local Hollywood film shoot, having appeared in a Boston-area filming with John Travolta for the upcoming heist movie “The Forger.”

“I play the girlfriend” of Travolta’s son in the film,” said Skyler Wright, 16, last week.

Wright was invited through an agency to audition for the movie’s scenes being filmed in Lynn. She acted in two scenes, including one with Travolta. The film is scheduled for release this year.

For the Duxbury drama club Wright plays the lead character in “Proof,” the daughter of a mathematician who discovers a long-sought mathematical proof. But her discovery leads to emotional turmoil when others doubt her authorship of the proof and question her mental balance.

Drama teacher Darin MacFarlane trimmed the full-length play (which was made into a movie) to the 40-minute version required by the competition.

“I love that she is such a vulnerable character,” Wright said of her role. “She does put up a wall. You have to show both sides of her character.”

As for her fellow performers and crew in the drama club, “I love them,” she said. “They’re like my family.”

In addition to Wright, the leads are played by Jared McCourt, Ginny Wyatt, and Jack Dobens. The drama club will perform at “home” at the Duxbury Performing Arts Center, which hosts seven school productions from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Brockton High School will host its own drama club’s production of a play called “Wiley and the Hairy Man.” Set in a mysterious swamp, the suspenseful theater piece revolves around a fatherless boy, his folk magician mother, and the Hairy Man who haunts his consciousness.

Sharon High School will also host the school’s own production of “Epic Proportions.” Set in the ’30s, the play tells the story of two brothers who go to the Arizona desert to work as extras in a Biblical epic film titled “Exeunt.”

Also in Sharon, Wareham High School’s drama club will perform “Fowl Play.”

Norwell High School’s drama club will go on the road to perform “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Westford Academy. The play, a recent Broadway comedy, draws on character names and the theme of a lost home from Chekhov’s classic “The Cherry Orchard.”

Hingham high schoolers will perform “Frostbite” at Weston High School. Set in chilly Minnesota, the play’s teen characters discover a shivering “kid” who claims to be more than 100 years old.

Two winners will be chosen from each of the seven semifinal performance venues to take part in the finals in Boston on March 28.

The following weekend, the grown-ups take the stage as The Duxbury Bay Players present Neil Simon’s comedy “The Odd Couple” at the town’s First Parish Church. The show, a classic comedy, pairs a fastidious neat freak (played by Jack Lemmon in the film version) with a notorious slob (Walter Matthau) as mismatched roommates.

“I grew up watching the show on TV,” said Philip Markella, who is making is directorial debut in the production. “I want to do it.”

Markella grew up in Duxbury, where the Bay Players were always very active. He took part in theater in high school and was invited to try out for the local theater group, but went to college instead.

A lawyer who now lives in Plymouth, Markella said The Bay Players were a natural choice where he decided to get back into community theater. Founded in 1956, the member-run company is the longest-running community theater organization on the South Shore. The company does three shows a season and offers a summer theater camp for youngsters. He proposed “The Odd Couple” for this year’s schedule, and the company liked the idea.

“It’s very rewarding,” Markella said. “It’s so much fun to be associated with a lot of like-minded people, and you have the pleasure of putting on a good show.”

“It’s community theater,” he said. “You do everything. You act, you produce, you stage manage, you build sets.”

Duxbury High junior Wright found rewards on stage as well. “I turned from a pretty shy kid to a massive goofball,” she said. “I love being able to put myself out there.”

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.
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