EXETER — As the curtain closed on the theater season, Exeter High School’s drama club won four awards at the New Hampshire Educational Theater Guild’s state drama festival. On April 1-2, the cast and crew of “Eurydice” performed an encore of their fall musical in front of judges and peers from across the state before receiving awards for Best Performance, Best Ensemble, Original Musical Composition and All-Star Company.
“Not only did our students put on a stunning piece of theater, but they brought energy, focus and kindness wherever they went throughout the festival and the whole experience is a testament to the resilience of our students,” said EHS Theater Director Joel Iwaskiewicz. and English teacher. “They failed to connect with each other this way for years. When they had the chance to come back and do it again, they did it wholeheartedly. All of our students have represented the Exeter High School community magnificently in every way, and for that I am immensely grateful and very proud. It was both humbling and thrilling that our cast and crew were honored with four awards.
As the first in-person theater festival since 2019, NHETG held two two-day state festivals, in New Durham and Derry, with 14 high schools participating. EHS was one of eight schools to take part in the festival at Pinkerton Academy in Derry performing ‘Eurydice’. “Eurydice” is a play by Sarah Ruhl that puts a new spin on the classic Greek myth of doomed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice as they try to escape the underworld together. The 15-person cast and crew revived the show, which premiered last fall after a two-year live theater hiatus, for a revamped version at the state festival.
“This production is easily one of the best I’ve seen in many years of judging this festival,” said Kevin Gardner, the festival’s most experienced judge, theater artist and educator who judged the NHETG festival. for decades. “It was superior in every way, from conception and staging to conception, execution and impact.”
The NHETG supports, promotes, and celebrates high school drama in the Granite State by hosting drama festivals, student conferences, and teacher professional development workshops.
The festival ended with an awards ceremony and EHS walked away with four accolades. The best ensemble was won by the Stone Chorus made up of nine actors. Two EHS seniors, guitarist Shea Hagan and singer Isabella Balfour, both from Exeter, were honored for their original musical composition. Balfour won two other awards, including recognition from the All-Star Company for his role as “Orpheus” and the Robert A. Stuart Award for Best Festival Performance.
The drama club is made up of students from all four years of high school. The full cast and crew of ‘Eurydice’ include senior Maddy Cooper, from Brentwood, as Eurydice; Bella Balfour, from Exeter, as Orpheus; Shea Hagan, from Exeter, as the music of Orpheus, Anais Bator, from Stratham, as Eurydice’s father and India Siecke, from Exeter, as the wicked and interesting man/lord of the underworld. Stone Chorus members include seniors Sophia Hutcheson of Newfields and Cali-Skyy McNeil of Brentwood; juniors Weston Bullens, Jack Curtis and Carly Hagan of Exeter; sophomores Leanne Drown, from East Kingston, and Esme’ King-Farbstein, from Exeter; and freshmen Amelia Buckley and Felix Sloss from Exeter.
The EHS Drama Club performed a springtime musical “Into the Woods,” the classic Broadway musical by the late and legendary Stephen Sondheim and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright James Lapine, at the end of March. The trip to the NHETG State Theater Festival marked the drama club’s last performance this school year and the end of the theater season.