Winter is waning (theoretically, anyway), which means the school theatrical fires are burning their brightest. For almost 90 years, this time of year has witnessed the Maine Drama Festival, when high school troupes take their one-act shows on the road.

This 88th edition will see more than 1,500 students from 78 Maine high schools participating in the Maine Principals' Association-supervised event. That’s right, the MDF is not far afield from a sporting event. There are time limits and technical specs and penalties and referees — well, judges. The audience has to toe the line too; once a performance begins, the doors are locked. No one’s getting in or out unless there’s a medical emergency.

Fortunately, those performances are relatively short — they have to be. Each play must run no longer, not even by a second, than 40 minutes. One change in this year’s rulebook is that a recent penalty of five points for going over 35 minutes has been eliminated. The other time limit is for setting up and taking down, or striking, the set — five minutes each. And those five minutes are the only time nonstudents can be involved in the actual performance.

This year’s drama fest regionals will take place Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, all around the state. One of the nine sites is Medomak Valley High School, 320 Manktown Road, Waldoboro, and three of the local troupes will be there. The others are traveling hither and yon — in the case of Camden Hills Regional High School, pretty far yon.

“I don’t think the school has been further north [than Bangor] for drama,” said Tom Heath, sites coordinator of the statewide fest and director of the Rockport school’s Caribou-bound troupe.

Wherever they compete, students will enjoy that very particular energy generated by a whole bunch of theater kids all in the same place. It’s a force the community can be part of by attending a play session (or two or three). Tickets at all sites are $8, $5 for students and senior citizens, per session. Play order can change and there is that door-locking thing, so trying to just see your school’s play can be dicey. Why not take in the others, too? What these young performers and production crews can do in 40 minutes or less can amaze and delight.

Schools compete in one of two classes, depending on how many students they have — Class A for 500 or more; Class B for fewer — and this year’s regionals are all a mix of both. Last week’s A&E section previewed the shows that are traveling out of the area (see the links below). Camden Hills (A) is, as mentioned, competing at Caribou High School, 308 Swede St. Its student-written one-act, “You & Mia” by senior Tatum Dowd, is scheduled to be performed in the Saturday session that starts at noon. Also competing in Class A is Belfast Area High School, whose “Sherlock Holmes: Comedy Trilogy” by Dick Charlton is scheduled for the 6 p.m. Saturday session at Mount Desert High School, 1081 Eagle Kale Road, Bar Harbor.

Searsport District and Mount View high schools, both Class B, will compete at Lawrence High School, 9 School St., Fairfield. Searsport goes up in the opening session, 6 p.m. Friday, kicking off the regional with a student-written comedy — albeit written about 10 years ago. SDHS alum Brandon Johnson’s “Unwanted Adventure,” given an Honorable Mention in a student playwriting contest, is in the venerable Samuel French stable now. Mount View will present “A Mad Breakfast” by Isabel McReynolds Gray in the Saturday noon session.

That leaves regional host Medomak Valley (A), Rockland’s Oceanside High School (B) and Vinalhaven School (B) at Medomak; North Haven bowed out this year. Vinalhaven will perform in the Friday night session; and Medomak and Oceanside will cap the regional’s Saturday night (see the full schedule at right).


Midcoast Regional schedule

Friday, 6 p.m.: Wiscasset High School (B), “Murder Box” by Reid Conrad; Vinalhaven High School (B), “Untimely Ripped” (adapted from “Macbeth”), Shakespeare; Gray-New Gloucester High School (A), “Once Upon a Grapevine” by Thomas Hischak.

Saturday, noon: Cape Elizabeth High School (A), “The Actor’s Nightmare” by Christopher Durang; Freeport High School (B), “Fourteen Known Offspring of Donor HH-247” by Rhea Fitzpatrick; Lincoln Academy (A), “The Snow Maiden” by Griff Braley

Saturday, 6 p.m.: Medomak Valley High School (A), “How to Roommate” by Claire Caviglia; Oceanside High School (B), “A Play with Words,” Peter Bloedel

Vinalhaven’s drama program has been run by Medomak alum Chloe Keller for several years now. The island troupe is presenting “Untimely Ripped,” an original adaptation/exploration of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” used as a vehicle to explore the influence of violent video games on the lives of American high school students — and the in-school violence to which they are exposed in person and via media as a result.

“While guns are used and gun violence ensue on stage, this is not intended to be a political statement about firearm use in America, but rather, an acknowledgement of the thoughts and concerns my students have around safety at school,” Keller said. “It is an opportunity to discuss that which seeps into their minds as they get ready for school in the morning.”

In addition to Keller, the production team includes Madison Young, lighting designer and board op; Mark Augusto Jr., sound; and Justice Grant, projections.

Vinalhaven’s cast features Jackson Day as Mac; Molly Jo Wentworth as Beth; Keaton Lear as John MacDuff; Ben Burgess as Banquo Jones; Caleb Turner as Ross; Corey Lazaro as Mal; Tim Farrelly as Duncan King/Mr. MacDuff; Max VanDyne, Emilie Osgood and Anastacia Simpson as witches; Hannah Newton as Donna Blain; Bella Tolman as Mrs. MacDuff/Gladys the Lunch Lady; and Callie Warren as Angus.

Medomak Valley has a lot on its plate as both host and competitor, so “this year we've gone light,” said Matthew Kopishke, co-director with Heather Webster.

The Medomak Valley Players will perform “How to Roommate” by Claire Caviglia, subtitled “A Full-length Comedy in One Act.” Jessica Nelson is assistant directing and Kerry Weber is costuming the large cast. Rhiannon Gould runs lights and Joshua Hagin, sound. The tech crew comprises Abby Bradeen, William Cox, Ian Doughty, Jordan Hays, Jason Holbrook, Emma Kavan and Emma Simmons.

The cast includes Zachary Cushman and Elizabeth Flanagan as Narrators 1 and 2; Eileen Monroy and Owen Weber as Students 1 and 2; Kalina Chazin-Knox as Student 1’s Friend/BF Roommate; and Coleman Swain as Friend/Mediocre Pest Control. The army of problematic roommates is played by Andrew Beaucage (Nerd), Emily Lupien (Ramen), Kolyn Mattson (Political Problem), Cameron Bains (Dietary Restriction), Wyatt Sykes (Messy), Eliza Nelson (Greek Lyfe), Elias Miller (Jock), Claire Bourett (Enthusiastic), Joseph Horowitz (Relationship) and Hannah Carr (Significant Other). In to assist are Alison Lupien and Madelyn White as Roommates R Us Tech Leader 1 and 2; and the Roommates R Us Tech Ensemble of Sophie Brooks, Ian Doughty, Rachel Gross, Jason Holbrook, Brooke Johnson, Dominque LaFlamme, Emma Kunesh, Julia Kunesh, Jayla Robinson and Aubrey Schaeffer.

The theatrical productions of Oceanside have been helmed by a faculty team for some years, but this is their first fest as Mr. and Mrs. Jo. Director Alison Johanson and tech director David Johanson are the only nonstudents in the large cast and crew of “A Play With Words" by Peter Blodel. The Rockland school has seven foreign exchange students — the most of any school in the state — and several of them are doing the one-act.

“The plot concerns Scribe, an angst-filled writer, experiencing some serious word-related anxiety as he attempts to create a play. In his search to find the words that fit, he becomes the main character in his own play where plot means less than the words that tangle around him,” said Alison Johanson.

The high-energy ‘Play’ culminates in an outrageous “Who’s on First?”-style courtroom scene, she added.

The cast features Uriah Thongsophaphone as Scribe, Myla Ferland as Therapist, Alex Mahar as Me, Geovanny García Downing as Myself, Raechel Joyce as I, Lydia Laslavic as Us, Anthony Radzimirski as You, Luca Siletti as Delivery Person, Ella Finger as They, Ruby Jovin as Them, Dylan Whitamore as Shadowy Figure/lt, Chloé Courant and Skylar Prior as Skeletons, Nathan Phaenephom as Bailiff, Aidan Andrews as Judge and musicians Julia Clough, Abe LeMole and Heather Stephenson.

A show this manic needs two stage managers, Isabel Corona-Ferlauto and Anna Poisson. Lighting is by Kalli Grover and Sara Dorr; and set design and construction by Zach Cody and Kalli Grover. Audrey Young supervises makeup, and the cast is taking care of its costuming. The running crew comprises Amos Anderson, Joumana Ben Salem, Krista Butler, Julia Clough, Thomas Coombs, Isabel Corona-Ferlauto, Claudia Fox, Dagbjört Jensdóttir, Jack Lombardo, Jaden Martin, Isaiah Millay, Anna Poisson, Trevor Reed, Hannah Simmons, Kiras Tavernakis, Aha Thamrongleeraha, Gavyn Tower, Audrey Young and Matthew Thomas Young.

At each of the nine regionals, a panel of three judges will decide which performances advance to the state finals, to be held March 22 and 23. Full regional results will be posted Sunday, March 10, on the Maine Drama Festival’s Facebook page.