Big things coming from Ayer Shirley arts


AYER — Picture this: You’ve just been released from a psychiatric hospital, and you, along with your spouse, decide to rent a cabin in the woods, whose owner is a creepy farmer. Your sister comes for a visit, and then things spiral down into the abyss.

That’s a small snippet of “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight” by Peter Colley, a Canadian playwright. And Ayer Shirley drama, under the direction of Mike Hoffmann, is performing it for the fall play.

Ryan Messcher, a sophomore, plays Greg, the husband. And he’s no stranger to the stage.

“I’ve been in multiple shows — my first being ‘Cinderella,'” he said.

Last year, he was in “Footloose,” which was Ayer Shirley’s spring musical.

Messcher is also a member of the school band, and he has participated in Destination Imagination, a program dedicated to teaching science, technology, engineering and math to students. He’d like to continue with music, but, ultimately, he wants to be a film director.

Brooke Martinez, also a sophomore, plays Laura, Greg’s sister.

“This is my first real show,” she said. She became interested in acting a year ago, and improv and doing the pit for “Footloose” were the catalysts. Hers is a villainous role, and that has her excited.

Katherine Krieger, a freshman and a stage veteran, plays Jane, Greg’s wife, who has just recovered from a nervous breakdown.

Thus the role tests ranges.

“This is one of the most complicated parts I’ve probably ever played,” Krieger said, adding that the character “gets angry quickly, it seems.”

“She’s definitely not stable,” she said.

Hoffmann said that “out of everybody, she has the hardest of the roles.” Also, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight” is difficult because it has such a small cast, he said.

“It’s not the terribly easiest thing when you’re on stage all the time,” he said.

But the show will very likely frighten audience members.

“If we really rehearse it very, very well, it really is quite dramatic and scary,” he said.

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Hoffmann, who has directed such shows as “Charlie Brown” and “Cinderella” and who has studied piano at Indian Hill Arts, is in his first year as director of theatre at Ayer Shirley Drama. He has big ideas for the program, and they include exposing students to many different kinds of performance.

“We’re going to try to get them into a BSO concert,” he said, also mentioning opera and community theater, with the ultimate goal being a New York trip in the spring. Students will also get to take tech classes and learn the basics of set construction.

The renovated high school will have the space to accommodate his vision. The auditorium, which will open in November, will be state of the art and will have professional sound and lighting, he said.

“We’re really trying to rebuild the drama program and get it up to” a high level, he said.

Jared Bloch, a new music teacher at Ayer Shirley Regional High School, has the same ambitions.

“The whole performing arts program is smaller than what we’d like it to be,” he said. “We’d like the performing arts program to be as strong as we can get it.”

The school offers classes in band, choir, guitar, piano, music theory and composition, and the history of rock. Bloch said that they would like to develop theater classes as well.

But, luckily, they both have backing.

“Ayer Shirley has been very supportive of what we’re trying to do here,” he said.

The show dates for “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight” are Dec. 12, 13 and 14.

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