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Emotion fuels winning drama

  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • ConVal students tackle a tough subject in their upcoming play, "The Women of Lockerbie."<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

PETERBOROUGH — ConVal Drama triumphed on its own turf in a regional-level New Hampshire Educational Theatre Guild competition at the Lucy Hurlin Theatre on Saturday. With the win, ConVal win compete in a state drama competition in early April.

One of ConVal Drama’s students, 17-year-old Cailin Ennis of Hancock, received an excellence in acting award for her performance.

Originally, Ennis said, the cast was going to be performing Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” about the Salem witch trials. But the cast that came out to audition was made up of almost entirely female actors. Instead of trying to force the cast to fit into the play, the cast made the decision to utilize the talent they had, and switch to a less well-known play that had a strong female cast.

The cast competed with “The Women of Lockerbie,” a play detailing the aftermath of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. It appealed to the group, because unlike “The Crucible,” the Pan Am bombing wasn’t a familiar subject to the cast of high school students, and they wanted to bring it to light. The group may have been more hesitant to take on the project if they had known how tough it would be to tackle the subject, Ennis said.

Ennis was awarded for her depiction of Olive, one of the only Lockerbie women who is named in the play. She plays a character who has lost her husband, son, and home when debris from the flight hit her house. Though it was a supporting role, Ennis threw herself into it, and used her own life experience to get to the heart of the character.

Most young actors don’t have the life experiences needed to bring the emotions of loss and tragedy onto the stage. But Ennis does, she explained in an interview Sunday. Her own family was hit by tragedy 12 years ago when her older brother was involved in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. She and her family had to go through a healing process that she said has clear parallels with her character in the play.

It was a tough decision to tap into those personal emotions to portray her character, said Ennis, but when the cast gathered in a circle to gear up for the performance, they all decided to dig a little deeper to bring out something special for their performance, and Ennis felt she had to bring those emotions to the forefront.

“It was a challenge to let myself go and become invested,” said Ennis. “But there’s a difference between acting what you think things should look like, and actually feeling it. I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be doing the cast or the play justice if I didn’t use that personal experience.”

Ennis’ character is leading an effort by the women of Lockerbie to collect the belongings of the victims of the bombing, wash the clothes and return them to the families.

“The healing that was asked from the characters challenged me to do some healing myself,” said Ennis. “And I did.”

“The whole cast decided to key into our emotions. We all got to this common level and made an unspoken decision to go all out. When you’re watching a show, you know that it’s a good show when you forget you’re in the audience. For an actor, you know it’s a good show when you forget you’re on stage. That’s what happened Saturday. I was not seeing any of my friends and cast, I was seeing this town and these people.

“I’m extremely proud of all of us. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be congratulated for your hard work. They don’t owe us anything and don’t need to be complimentary. It’s the ultimate goal, not only to be proud of the work you’ve done, but to have other people be proud as well.”

Ennis said she’s been involved in acting for several years, but it’s only been the past year that’s made her believe this is something she wants to pursue in college.

While Ennis was singled out for her acting, the whole cast will be moving on to compete with “The Women of Lockerbie” at the state level in a competition at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro in a two-day festival on April 5 and April 6. From there, two shows will be chosen to compete at the New England Drama Festival in Woonsocket, R.I. at the end of April.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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