McLean High School
What happens when you build a barrier that keeps everyone out, even the ones you love? Follow the touching story of Dominion High School's "Fortress," where we witness one particular fortress finally come crashing down.
Written by Michael Scanlan, "Fortress" details the complicated relationship between Billy and Kim over a span of several years, revealing the challenges Billy has faced since childhood and his desperate persistence to shut out everyone around him, including Kim. Frustrated, she tries, time and time again, to show what a big mistake he is making. Dominion High School's VHSL piece explores the concepts of truth and growth, characterizing the importance of bringing down the walls that block those who care about us the most from coming into our lives, even in our most vulnerable moments.
This compelling story illustrates the many emotional changes that Billy and Kim go through from young children to older teenagers. Maguire Crowe, portraying Billy, met the demands of this lengthy timeline with a wide age range. Whether it was the hesitant stammering of a five-year-old repeating his mother's scoldings verbatim or the explosive outbursts of a standoffish 13-year-old, Crowe's incredible ability to perform such a variety of ages paved the way for a powerful development of his character. Alongside Billy is his long-time "frenemy," Kim, played by Lareina Allred. As the narrator of "Fortress," she presented Kim chronicling the story as her current self while switching between multiple ages, exemplifying Allred's ability to portray different stages of Kim's life with outstanding ease.
Along with Billy and Kim is the impressive ensemble team, juggling the task of simultaneously playing individual characters and groups of characters, as well as acting as a part of a scene's setting. Portrayed by Aaron Haak, Ella Greer, Chase Bochenek, and Sara Banks, the inventive use of ensemble members throughout the play gave each scene a unique twist. Such creative interpretation was seen in the portrayal of a psychiatrist's office, in which the ensemble members spoke at the same time to depict the voice of the psychiatrist. Another notable demonstration of the ensemble's dexterity in different times and settings could be noticed as they effortlessly transformed from stern adults at a cocktail party to misbehaving kids in an elementary school classroom. With such a skilled team of ensemble members, the group laid the foundation of the play.
The stage presented a variety of different settings with a simple, minimalist set. This design provided imaginative flexibility for each scene, whether it was depicting a classroom or a funeral home. Along with the set, Andrew Joyner's work with the lighting made scenes impactful, dimming or even shutting them off completely at key moments in the play, signaling a transition in time or a sudden event. The attention to detail in costume conveyed important aspects of characters, such as portraying Billy's admiration for Superman through wearing his famous red cape. Moreover, the sound quality was strong, despite face mask covering requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With all of these technical elements so well coordinated, the organization of this production was exceptional, thanks to stage manager Logan Downes.
To some, constructing a barrier to keep away from others is the only way to seek comfort. In Dominion High School's production, we learn that this "Fortress" is one boy's kryptonite, depriving him of what he needs most.
McLean High School
Friendships, falsehoods, and fortresses. Life has many obstacles to overcome, but true friends always make their way back to each other and Dominion High School explored the complexity of friendship and relationships in their stellar rendition of "Fortress."
"Fortress," by Michael Scanlan, was developed in the late 1980s and the one-act evolved to its current state with the help of students at the LaSalle Academy in Rhode Island. Dominion High School's production functioned as their submission to the VHSL competition. The piece followed characters Billy and Kim from age 5 to high school. As they maneuvered complicated family relationships and pressure from peers, their friendship grew and was put to the test time and time again. Communication was a recurring struggle and the pair used Superman as their catalyst. Supported by an ensemble that transitioned from parents, peers, and psychiatrists, the journey depicted the challenges of growing up.
Maguire Crowe portrayed Billy, and with each step of the journey he truly embodied the depicted age. The role required dedication to a range of emotions and Crowe delivered. With particular speech cadences and stances for each age, Crowe's portrayal was authentic. Without missing a beat, Crowe's performance hit each emotional instance with adroit commitment. Lareina Allred played Kim, acting as a narrator of sorts as well as a friend to Billy. In her moments alone recounting the tale, Allred flawlessly captured the attention of the audience. Allred illustrated emotional vulnerability and frustration in her performance as she artfully balanced her outbursts and inner conflicts.
As the show followed the pair as they grew up, Crowe and Allred were tasked with showcasing their development. But, due to the nature of the characters, Crowe handled bringing youth to a mature character while Allred retained childishness even as her character entered high school. Between the deliberate pauses and intentional awkwardness, the duo brought an honest representation of friendship through the years.
The ensemble of the show consisted of Aaron Haak, Ella Greer, Chase Bochenek, and Sara Banks. The group exemplified cohesion and flexibility, taking on a variety of roles throughout the journey. Acting as set pieces, classmates, and dinner party guests, the ensemble's quick reactions during scenes and rapid transitions allowed for the production to smoothly function.
The simplistic technical elements of the production enhanced the actors' emotional vulnerability. Andrew Joyner led the lighting department and masterfully lit the stage with overlapping spotlights that dimmed during transitions. During a jarring car crash scene, Joyner employed the only blackout of the production, signaling the significance of the moment. Further supporting the seamless transitions was Logan Downes, the stage manager. Downes expertly handled the complicated blocking of the ensemble and enabled swift transitions. The technical team supported the performance of the actors and together the elements of the production worked in harmony.
Between a beautiful portrayal of relationships and complete ensemble cohesion, audiences wanted to tear down their own "Fortresses of Solitude" to view Dominion High School's impactful interpretation of "Fortress."