‘Almost, Maine’: Theatre Arts Senior Capstone about Love

By Alexis Bensoussan

“Almost, Maine,” this year’s theatre senior capstone, is a play made up of a series of vignettes about the ups and downs of love.

“Love is a universal term, and it’s so broad and everybody experiences it differently, which I think the show really does a good job of showcasing that,” said Shayla Nelson, a senior majoring in Theatre Arts and minoring in Music. She is an actor in the show, as well as an intimacy coordinator and assistant charge artist. “It focuses on love, but it also focuses on the pain of losing someone you love. It’s different in everybody’s case.”

The Theatre Arts seniors thought that “Almost, Maine” would be the perfect show for their capstone project because it offers opportunities for every single aspect of the acting and technical sides. 

“We all kind of felt this was the best show that kind of makes sense for our company,” said Charles Penszynski, a senior majoring in Theatre Arts and one of the directors of the show. He is also serving as the house manager and assistant lighting designer. “We have a lot of designers, technicians, actors and directors. This was probably the most perfect show to kind of incorporate all of those elements. And we’re all each doing several different things.”

Additionally, the company agreed that the themes of the play can resonate with everyone.

“I think the characters are interesting and they’re so, so relatable, and you see all different stages of love and how it’s never going to be perfect,” Penszynski said. 

The show consists of eight vignettes of about ten minutes each, as well as a prologue, interlogue and epilogue. 

Each scene shows different people going through their own experiences of love and heartbreak, all taking place at the same time. The northern lights that show up at the end of each scene symbolize how these moments are all happening at once. 

The set was designed by senior and Theatre Arts major Karli Knepfler. “She did an outstanding job listening to everyone’s ideas,” Penszynski said. The white chunks floating from the top are pieces of ice that some of the team made. The aurora borealis affect is made through lighting different colors onto the ice pieces. Photo by Mike Kitaif. 

“It’s important to touch on [how] everyone’s sense of love is different,” Nelson said. 

The vignettes emphasize the various aspects of love, whether those moments are happy or not. Sprinkled in with a little comedy, “Almost, Maine” can make people laugh, cry and feel for the characters on stage as they may have experienced something similar. 

“I think some of them are heartbreaking, some of them are hysterical; I think there’s a little bit of both,” Penszynski said.

An interesting part of the play is how it is set in a thrust space with seating on the stage and surrounding the actors on three sides. Bringing the audience in closer creates more of an intimate atmosphere. 

All of the senior Theatre Arts majors have come together to put on this show, whether they’re acting, leading warmups, directing, lighting designing, etc. Each student was given three jobs to do to make sure everything comes together.

“We’re all there to make sure that we put on a good production. I think with that in mind, everyone’s been really focused on that,” Nelson said.

Actors John Timbie and Shayla Nelson share a sweet moment together in character. Photo by Mike Kitaif. 

“Almost, Maine” will run Nov. 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 18 and 19 at 2 p.m. and will be put on display in the Flagler College Lewis Auditorium.

“Everyone has really put in all the hours,” Penszynski said. “We all are here for the general goal: to put on a show. And I think it’s a show that everyone’s truly proud to show off because it’s kind of incorporating different skills that everyone’s done or at least dabbled in.”

However, putting on a production is never an easy feat. For Nelson, she has to play three different characters. She has to make each character she plays distinguishable from the others. 

A lot of the members of the company are also trying new things and learning through the process, doing jobs they might not have a lot of experience in. 

“I’m kind of learning and doing it at the same time,” Penszynski said. 

Working on the show has proved to be both challenging and rewarding. Ultimately, the seniors are proud of where they’ve ended up, and they are grateful for their education at Flagler College.

“This past summer, I performed at the Vatican in Rome, and I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do that [if I hadn’t had the experience that I’ve had at Flagler]. My time here at Flagler has taught me so much,” Nelson said.  

Overall, the Theatre Arts seniors feel that putting on the show “Almost, Maine” has been a heartwarming and exciting adventure. 

“I think it’s been a really fun process, especially as a director. It’s fun to see those lightbulb moments,” Penszynski said. 

It has been a joy for each of the seniors to see the work they have done put up on its feet. From all the classes they have taken to help prepare them and through their experience in other shows, the Flagler College Theatre Arts seniors have put together a production to showcase all the talent and skills they’ve gained over the past four years.

“I’m really thankful for those experiences,” Nelson said. 

To appreciate the heart, hard work, sincerity and love this show and these seniors have, visit the “almost” town of “Almost, Maine.” Or maybe you’ll just be there to see the northern lights.

Tickets can be purchased at flagler.universitytickets.com or at the door. Seating is limited.

The whole cast and crew after a successful full run of the show. Photo by Mike Kitaif.
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