Play at Salem High sends off drama teacher Rachel Sailer

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Emily Webb (Samantha Kennedy) talks to her mother, Mrs. Webb (Sierra Boynton), about life and love.
Mr. Webb (Ben Shenal),  left, is taken aback when his wife, Mrs. Webb (Sierra Boynton), suddenly enters the scene. George Gibbs (Moss Stratton) sits between the two. – Photos by Richard Smith

Richard Smith Contributing writer

          On April 7 and 8, a large audience gathered in Salem High School’s auditorium to see the drama department’s most recent production. The play, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” makes the last drama performance of the school year.

The play has been a significant one for Director Rachel Sailer. Sailer, who has been teaching drama at the school for 30 years, debuted with the same play decades ago. Years later, it seemed appropriate to end with another production of “Our Town.”

“I thought I’d go out doing this play because now I have resources as opposed to the first time around,” Sailer said. “When I came here thirty years ago, there was no scenery – not money in the drama budget. Back then, you could do without much money.” The play itself is known for its lack of reliance on props; instead, the actors pantomime their interactions with chickens, food and other objects. Nevertheless, sound clips were played offstage to simulate the atmosphere of Grover’s Corners, a small New Hampshire town set in the early 20th century.

The play is split into three acts and tells of the lives (and deaths) of the citizens of Grover’s Corners. It is also distinguished by its frequent breaking of the fourth wall by a stage manager. In this particular production, four students took the role of stage manager – Jordan Baker, James DeMaurice, Alayna Johnson and Emma Studtman. The roles of Emily Webb (Samantha Kennedy) and George Gibbs (Moss Stratton) were also standouts, the couple’s love story being told prior to Emily’s death and afterlife in the third act.

“No matter what happened Friday and Saturday, it was already a success for me,” said Sailer. However, it was apparent throughout the play that the students were well-prepared. “The students learned so much – all of that cooperation and studying what the words truly mean in the script,” continued Sailer. Students gave convincing and highly entertaining performances without the need of props. Mistakes were kept to a minimum and the audience laughed often in the lighter, comedic moments.

“The best thing that I learned from my high school drama teacher was the pleasure of doing something well is much greater than the pleasure of just goofing off,” said Sailer.

At the end of the play, a few senior members of the cast spoke about their time with Sailer. Members of Sailer’s original “Our Town” cast were in attendance and were recognized accordingly. It was an emotional time for many. Sailer was presented with roses, and shortly afterwards, the program was finished; both the audience and the drama staff then flooded into the lobby, talking excitedly amongst themselves.

“I’m very proud of the cast and the crew. I’m pleased with how many people came to support the students and my career,” said Sailer.

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