Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Local News

Branford HS Dramat Plays Out 'The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail'

1

The cast and crew of Branford High School Performing Arts Dramat present 'The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail'  Dec. 7, 8, 9. The play features junior Adam Jackson (center, in straw hat) as Henry David Thoreau. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

The cast and crew of Branford High School Performing Arts Dramat present 'The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail' Dec. 7, 8, 9. The play features junior Adam Jackson (center, in straw hat) as Henry David Thoreau. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

2

Michael Hoadley, as Ralph Waldo Emerson (far left) introduces his son, Edward Emerson (played by Sophia Coppola) to Thoreau (Adam Jackson) as Lydian Emerson (Luna McCulloch) looks on. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

Michael Hoadley, as Ralph Waldo Emerson (far left) introduces his son, Edward Emerson (played by Sophia Coppola) to Thoreau (Adam Jackson) as Lydian Emerson (Luna McCulloch) looks on. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

3

The cast and crew of Branford High School Performing Arts Dramat present 'The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail'  Dec. 7, 8, 9. The play features junior Adam Jackson (standing on bench) as Henry David Thoreau. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

The cast and crew of Branford High School Performing Arts Dramat present 'The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail' Dec. 7, 8, 9. The play features junior Adam Jackson (standing on bench) as Henry David Thoreau. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

4

Adam Jackson (Thoreau) and Taron Jaruchaiyakul (Deacon Ball) face off in a tense scene. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

Adam Jackson (Thoreau) and Taron Jaruchaiyakul (Deacon Ball) face off in a tense scene. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

5

Thoreau (Adam Jackson) spends a night in jail with cellmate Bailey (Sebastian Hincapie, seated, right) and visits from constable Sam Staples (Teagan Haskins, center).

Pam Johnson/The Sound

Thoreau (Adam Jackson) spends a night in jail with cellmate Bailey (Sebastian Hincapie, seated, right) and visits from constable Sam Staples (Teagan Haskins, center). (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

6

Henry David Thoreau, played by Adam Jackson, shares his thoughts -- and a row boat - with Ellen Sewell (played by Kaitlyn Fischer).

Pam Johnson/The Sound

Henry David Thoreau, played by Adam Jackson, shares his thoughts -- and a row boat - with Ellen Sewell (played by Kaitlyn Fischer). (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

7

First inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Mike Hoadly, right), Thoreau (Adam Jackson) later challenges his mentor.

Pam Johnson/The Sound

First inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Mike Hoadly, right), Thoreau (Adam Jackson) later challenges his mentor. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

8

Cast members Luna McCulloch, (left) and Sophia Coppola take a closer look at Thoreau's chicken wearing gloves.

Pam Johnson/The Sound

Cast members Luna McCulloch, (left) and Sophia Coppola take a closer look at Thoreau's chicken wearing gloves. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

9

Edward Emerson (Sophia Coppola) and Thoreau (Adam Jackson) pick huckleberries with assistance from crew members Maggie Devlin (far left) and Zoe Johnson.

Pam Johnson/The Sound

Edward Emerson (Sophia Coppola) and Thoreau (Adam Jackson) pick huckleberries with assistance from crew members Maggie Devlin (far left) and Zoe Johnson. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

Billed as "one of the most famous acts of civil disobedience in American history," Branford High School (BHS) Performance Arts Dramat plays out "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail" with three performances December 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Despite the image the title may conjure, the play unfolds in many places other than just the jail cell Thoreau occupied for one night. He was jailed after refusing to pay a tax to fund the Mexican-American war (1846-48), a border territory battle he did not support.

A cast of over 25 BHS student actors play out scenes at spots including Thoreau's beloved Walden Pond. Many portray characters woven into Thoreau's life, from his family to the famed Ralph Waldo Emerson. All are summoned up during a night of trademark heavy thinking, peppered with Thoreau's thought-provoking statements, as he questions authority, dissects conventions and posits his transcendentalist beliefs.  Along the way, the BHS stage is shared by the likes of a chicken wearing gloves, a full-blown battle scene and many other unexpected twists.

BHS AP English teacher Maria Ogren has been directing the school's fall plays for more than 40 years. As with the past several productions, Ogren is once again working with assistant director and BHS English teacher John Matthiessesn.

Ogren said a combination of current issues and perfect casting called her to select this two-act play, written in 1969 by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The duo also authored "Inherit the Wind," said Ogren, "...so they're really into making theatre come alive in history; and this play in particular came out at the time of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, so that it speaks to Thoreau's intense passion for freedom, individuality and being against war and slavery in his time."

Given the country's current divisive climate, "... it just seemed like a good time to show that Americans are not like that. We have a long history of standing up for our freedoms and humanity and tolerance, and allowing people to be individuals," said Ogren.

Junior Adam Jackson, who weaves the play's story together as Thoreau, has mastered a "difficult" role, Ogren added.

"He's on in every scene -- and he's doing it with such passion and verve and excitement [that] everybody else is just rising up to that level of intensity. So we have some wonderful scenes," said Ogren.

Jackson has put a great deal of care and thought in bringing to Thoreau to life.

"I don't want to represent him in a way that would be dishonoring him, because he was such a great man and a great mind; and a little quirky, which is always fun," said Jackson. "It's really been a challenge to play him, but I think with working with the script and through the directors and everyone else, it's just been a really great experience, and I've been able to find a character I really like for him."

Jackson's well-supported by student actors including Michael Hoadley as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ben Clouse as John Thoreau; together with key character roles portrayed by students Luna McCullouch, Rita Micklus, Taron Jaruchaiyakul, Sebastian Hincapie, Kaitlyn Fisher, Teagan Haskins, Sophia Coppola and Manik Soomro. Other cast members include Katelyn Bissell, Elise Eggert, Hope McCormack, Hope Steen and Ema Ng.  BHS junior Shelby Zoccano is the play's Stage Manager. Stage crew members are Julian Clarke-Dixon, Maggie Devlin, Zoe Johnson, Merve Seferge and Angel Villavicencio.

Tickets, $8 adults, $5 students, are available at the door on performance nights at Branford High School, 185 East Main St. on Thursday, Dec. 7, Friday, Dec. 8 and Sat. Dec. 9. All performances 7:30 p.m.









Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at p.johnson@shorepublishing.com.

Reader Comments