WATA brings new METG show into the spotlight


ASA Photographic

WATA rehearses their final scene, “When the Mockingbird Sings”.

Kate Kelly, Staff Writer

Velvet curtains open as students take the routes they’ve rehearsed a thousand times before. Piece by piece, a set is constructed before the audience. Within five minutes, an incline of stairs, windows, and trees are illuminated by stage lights. With the gentle glow reflecting off of an intrigued auditorium, the show can finally begin. 

Westford Academy Theater Arts debuted their annual festival submission for the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild on March 5 at Attleboro High School, as well as two school performances on March 2 and 16. This year, WATA chose to submit an original production titled When the Mockingbird Sings. 

When the Mockingbird Sings is a composition of smaller storylines that reflect on common themes of what it means to be a teacher as well as a student. The title of the play is an allusion to the famous high school book, as it shares the same questions as WA’s show. 

“That question is, ‘do we have empathy?’ Empathy for our peers, educators, and parents,” senior Roman Munichiello said. “Can we feel for each other?”

The opening scene, titled “Collective Bargain”, features a student and his teacher who learn of a missing kid while on a walk. They focus on what it means to have a team mentality and when it’s important to stand alone. Moving quickly to the next act, a solo teacher, played by Munichiello, tells his own story of so-called ‘elephants in the room’ in an intimate conversation with the audience. 

Next in line was a two-person scene named “Target Practice”. This story showcases a challenging teacher who wins a bet with his student, but in doing so, reveals the disturbingly common trends of teenagers. In “Pole Position”, a teacher and student’s conversation reveals a lot more than a deprecating grade, switching the stereotypical positions of power. 

The last small scene, “Far from the Tree”, is about a parent teacher conference that shows there’s a lot more than the surface of a situation. In the final scene, named after the title of the play, the whole cast is brought back on stage. This time, it’s a classroom of students discussing the book, When the Mockingbird Sings by Katherine King. But things turn south quickly, proving the damages to be irreversible. 

The show ends on a chilling note, bringing important topics of discussion to the table. What makes the play even more personal is the fact that theater teacher Michael Towers wrote it during his sabbatical last year. The concepts were all derived from real life experiences during the time of the pandemic that he’d begun to pick up on. 

“It raises questions about who the teachers are, who the learners are, and where these things can happen,” Towers said. “It is an exploration of school as something other than a building.”

Despite Towers’s role as director, WATA festival productions are very student-based. Junior Natalie Weinberg, for one, acted as the assistant director and a leader when it came to making the show. She was assigned this role as a long time member of the theater community, and used her position behind the scenes to make sure the show was something to be proud of.

“There’d be three breakout groups rehearsing at a time. One with Mr. Towers, one with Chrissy [Richert], who’s our stage manager, and one with me,” Weinberg said. “I wouldn’t be creating anything new, but I would be running and providing ideas to help actors. We were working as a bigger company, and I was just an additional voice with more ideas.”

The festival guidelines are very strict, allowing no more than 40 minutes for the show and five minutes to assemble the set. After the cast took to the stage, they spent the rest of their day watching other school’s performances.

“It is very competitive, if not more so than athletic offense,” Towers said. “But you’re walking into a space where people still want to see success and are moved by that.” 

While WATA did not qualify to advance in the competition, the group is happy with how they performed as a team and the messages they were able to share. 

“Art is subjective, and that is what makes competitive art that much harder,” Munichiello said.  “But we have a performance to be proud of and to me that is always what will matter.”

However, the group didn’t leave completely empty-handed. Junior Collin Walsh, senior Lauren Trethaway, and senior Colby Murphy were all recognized for their excellence in performance by the judges.  

Returning to the stage after the METG competition brought nothing but excitement to the cast. They are content with what they have created and conveyed. 

“I think the most disappointing thing to me is that we can’t have more time with the show,” Weinberg said. “On Sunday, I was so proud of them. When they finished that show, I ran backstage hugging all the actors. I really think it was a really amazing show.”