The state finals of the 82nd annual Maine Drama Festival will take place Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23. Three Midcoast schools are involved in the Class A finals, Class A being those schools with more than 550 students.

Having won their respective regional competitions, Belfast Area High School and Rockland’s Oceanside High School will take on seven other Class A schools from around the state. Camden Hills Regional High School’s troupe, meanwhile, is trading its judges-commendation-winning “Great Gatsby” costumes for techie T-shirts to share its state-of-the-art Strom Auditorium as host of the Class A State Finals.

The finals will take place over three sessions, Friday beginning 6 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 5:30 p.m. Admission to each session is $8, $5 for students. The annual festival is produced by the Maine Principals' Association's Drama Committee and the Maine Drama Council, and all proceeds go to the MPA.

Three plays will be presented each session; theatergoers should be apprised that once a play begins, no one may enter or exit the auditorium, barring a major emergency. Performances are strictly timed: set-up and set strike can run no longer than five minutes each and the performance itself not a second longer than 40 minutes.

Meeting that mark has been a challenge in recent years for the BAHS troupe, helmed by Michael Lawson and Sonja Richardson, so they celebrated accomplishing it at the Eastern Regional hosted by Mount Desert Island earlier this month. Then it turned out their wild and wacky “Greek Mythology Olympiaganza” had taken the big prize.

“In November we had a room full of students that just wanted to be in a play, learn something about theater and have a good time. We thought that we had won enough when we accomplished that in local performances,” said Lawson.

“It has been 12 years since Belfast has been to states. We are so proud for our ‘kids’ to have made it this far,” said Richardson.

Oceanside, led by drama director Alison Machaiek, is a frequent flyer when it comes to the state finals and has been overall winner more than once; last year, the first after the former Class B Rockland District and Georges Valley high schools combined to become Class A Oceanside, OHS won at the Midcoast Regional, hosted by Camden Hills, and placed fifth at states with an unusual-for-them tragic drama. This year, they are offering a colorful and lively cutting of Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night.”

“We're thrilled to be going on, especially as the States are in Camden — they are always great hosts. It’s a gorgeous facility and we're familiar with the performance space,” said Machaiek.

Things happen to change up the order at times, but the scheduled lineup at Camden Hills is as follows. The Friday 6 p.m. session will feature Thornton Academy’s “Macbeth”; Belfast’s comedy; and Morse High School’s “STR8-2-VID30” (as in straight-to-video). The Saturday noon session will feature Bangor High School’s “Hush Little Celia,” Fryeburg Academy’s “Private Lives” and Westbrook High School’s “The Zen Substitute.” The final session, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., will feature Skowhegan High School’s “Uncle Vanya,” Falmouth’s “The 39 Steps” and Oceanside’s Shakespearean comedy.

The Class B State Finals will be held at Freeport High School; finalists include Lincoln Academy of Newcastle. Complete results from both finals will be available Sunday, March 24, at State champions of both classes are invited to present their plays in the non-competitive New England Drama Festival next month in Rhode Island.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or