WATA disqualified from METG for overtime performance
March 23, 2017
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On Saturday, March 18th, Westford Academy Theater Arts presented Caryl Churchill’s play Fen at the Massachusetts Education Theater Guild state semi-final, but their performance went just past the time limit and was disqualified from the competition.
The entire performance was required to be no less than 50 minutes, with 5 minutes for setup, 40 minutes for performance, and 5 minutes for strike. WA finished the performance portion at 40.017 minutes, a mere 0.017 seconds over the cutoff.
However, the play still received awards, such as the All-Star Company Award for Excellence in Ensemble Acting as well as All-Star Cast awards for Property Design and Lighting Design. They are, however, unable to move on to the final round of the competition on March 30 and April 1, which isn’t the norm for WATA’s generally high-achieving productions.
The Excellence in Ensemble Acting award was given to the eight cast members: Catherine Crimmins, Maddy Corvino, Keely Craig, Claire Clark, Emily Trantanella, Haley Crogan, Devon Whitney and Michael Baltayan. Emily Harde and Robin Miller received the Property Design award, and the Lighting Design award went to Leah Donovan and Devin Payne.
Westford Academy has won the METG Festival for several years running under Towers, excluding 2016. This is the first year in a long time that they will not be moving past the semi-final round, and the first time they have been disqualified in all 18 years under Michael Towers’s direction.
Towers acknowledged the disappointment both he and the ensemble felt as a result of being unable to continue in the competition.
“I’m disappointed for my students, that they were not recognized at the highest level. It is disappointing for me personally […] you ask yourself the question, how could I have been better? The disheartening sensation is that of, ‘there was more that I could do’,” Towers said.
In regards to the events that caused the play to go overtime, Towers did not acknowledge a specific element. He reasons that the theater is a collaborative art, and to fault one aspect of the production would not do the team justice. If anything, he faults himself as a leader:
“It’s like an athletic event. You could take a soccer game, for example, where a goal is scored in the final seconds of the game. That renders a one to nothing outcome. It’s not the goalie’s fault, right? […] Every collaborative has a leader, every organization has a leader, and it’s important that there is one. And in this case, I am the leader, so if there’s anyone who’s responsible, it’s me,” Towers said.
All things considered, Towers sees the positive side of the METG 2017 experience. The All-Star Company Award had not been given to Westford Academy for eleven years. It was also an extremely difficult project to undertake for competition, especially considering the set. Weighing in at between 1500 and 2000 pounds, the set was comprised in part by rubber used to simulate dirt. About 24 students had to move and manipulate this set in five minutes.
Towers commended the actors’ performances, calling the production of Fen a groundbreaking moment for him as an educator or director.
“[The production] was beautiful. It was a remarkable work of art. There was so much success, there was so much risk, and I will say this unequivocally: it was the most difficult challenge that we mounted in this season […] I had one of my most groundbreaking moments as an educator watching the realization of this piece.”
There will be one more performance of Fen on March 28 at 7:00 PM.