For the battle of the theaters, Dartmouth High School presents “The Layover”

Feb 16, 2024

A young girl is stuck in an airport with no clue of how she got there or where she’s going. While she waits for a plane that may never come, she crosses paths with some mysterious strangers that force her to confront some difficult truths about her childhood. 

That’s how “The Layover” by Tracy Wells begins, the play that the Dartmouth High Theatre Company will be performing in a state-wide competition across the Commonwealth, hosted by The Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild.

Dartmouth High School is one of over 90 schools across the state that will face off in the first round of the competition on March 2. Dartmouth High School will be performing “The Layover” at 2 p.m. at Joseph Case High School. 

The play is entirely student-driven. Seniors and close friends Haley Cabral and Hadley Fitton have been in charge of directing the play, managing rehearsals, choosing props and putting together the set design. 

“I think it has a powerful message that a lot of teens and anybody at the competition is going to be able to relate to,” Cabral said of the play. “Life’s so short and you really do want to make the most of your time.”

The state competition will feature plays across the board from comedies to musicals, but Cabral thinks “The Layover,” with its relatable themes of self-discovery and redemption, will appeal to the judges.

Denis Lawrence, the co-director of the Dartmouth High Theatre Company, majored in the performing arts at UMass Bridgewater. Over the course of his career, Lawrence has won two Academy of Regional Theatre Arts awards and received a Drama Masque Award for his performance as Van Helsing in Dracula. 

Despite his experience, Lawrence said the students are taking the reins in the competition. 

“We’ve tried to make it more student-involved,” he said.

Lawrence said that putting the students in charge of the play is an opportunity to “expose and introduce our actors to directing and all of the things that are involved in a production.” 

Whether they win the competition or not, Lawrence said the students are learning valuable life skills.

The Dartmouth High Theatre Company’s motto is “Join as strangers, become friends, and leave a family,” Lawrence said.

 “They’re making friendships that are going to last a lifetime,” Lawrence said.

Junior Charlotte French is playing the lead role of Dana, a young girl who mysteriously finds herself in an airport with no idea of how she arrived there or which flight she should catch. Dana wrestles with her resentment for her parents and childhood as she waits at the airport. 

French said it was difficult to channel Dana’s anger and cynicism. 

“This has probably been one of the hardest roles I’ve played so far because she’s so mean,” French said of playing Dana. “She hates the world so much—I’m not used to doing that.”

In real life, when she’s not playing angry characters like Dana, French describes herself as a cheerful, positive person. 

“A type-cast for me would be like a bubbly, happy character, and she’s totally the opposite,” French said. “It’s been really hard just being mean all the time.”

After high school, French plans to continue acting and to pursue a career in theater. In preparing for the role of Dana, French said she pays close attention to where she feels the character’s emotions in her body. 

“Dana has a heavy chest, all of her emotion is trapped inside of her until the very end when she finally lets it come out,” French said. 

Junior Mason Langlois will be performing the role of Michael, who helps guide Dana on her emotional journey that eventually leads to a shocking epiphany. Though he usually prefers comedies, Langlois said the idea of a melodrama set in an airport piqued his curiosity.

Though the play deals with life and death, Langlois said it doesn’t end on a low note. 

“It does try and leave the audience with a sense of hope for the future,” he said.

The winners of the March 2 competition will then move into the semi-finals on March 9 and then to state finals on March 21. Only two high schools will be chosen to represent Massachusetts in the New England Drama Festival.