Today, I sat down for a one-on-one chat with Peabody High's ever-gracious drama teacher, Mr. Carey. In addition to teaching Improv and Drama during the school day, Mr. Carey produces three annual shows for Stage One: a fall play, a Drama Festival entry, and a spring musical. It should be noted that my interviewing skills are shoddy at best, but with a subject as naturally conversational as Mr. Carey, it hardly mattered.
The following transcript has been lightly edited.
What's your name?
How long have you been teaching at Peabody High?
Twenty-four-and-a-half years. I'll celebrate twenty-five years in January.
Auditions for Stage One's fall show, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, are happening today. What made you want to direct this play in particular?
I had read the book when it first came out about ten years ago, and I liked it very much. I also saw the original Broadway production in New York, and really liked that. I put it on the list for when it became available for high schools to do, to do it.
[Silence while I struggle to think of another question; he mercifully continues:] I think what I like about the play, why I want to do it, is that it deals with a kid who sees the world differently than most kids do. That character is Christopher. We follow Christopher's story, and I think it's wonderful that Christopher winds up the hero of his own story. I want to celebrate that.
That's what makes theatre so interesting, is that you can explore the perspectives of all different sorts of people who you wouldn't normally even consider.
Right. It's interesting to see the world through Christopher's eyes, to see how he perceives things, to see how he tackles them and overcomes the insecurities he has, and winds up winning in the end. I think that's so great.
Are there any shows you would like to stage but haven't been able to?
There are shows that we simply don't have the population for, such as not having enough actors of color, and there are some shows I think there is simply no audience for. Parade, which is about the lynching of Leo Frank in the 1910s, is a beautiful, beautiful musical, but I don't know how we could sell it.
Is that something that's always in the back of your mind --- how will this production be received by the parents?
My first and foremost duty is to serve the students, and also to present a well-balanced season. Until we know what the Dramafest show is going to be, it's hard to select the musical, because the Dramafest show is usually our serious, big-issue-tackling production. That leaves the musical free to be more lighthearted.
For anyone who might not know, what is Drama Festival?
It's a competition between about one hundred and ten school districts throughout Massachusetts. It consists of a preliminary contest, and then --- if you're so blessed --- a semi-finals, and then [knocking the wood table] state finals in Boston. We've been lucky enough Stephanie Manning-Recine as our Festival director for the past nine years. She was a graduate of Peabody High in 2005, went off to college, came back one year, and we've had her back every year since.
And would you say that Peabody is known for bringing especially serious shows to Festival?
I think so. I think we're known not to let a subject matter deter us from tackling the material.
You've been going to Festival for as long as you've taught at PVMHS?
Not the first year I was here --- I arrived in January that year and they didn't want us going --- but every year since then.
Do you have a favorite Festival show that you've seen another school do?
Ooh, good question.
Westford Academy did My Name is Asher Lev about six years ago. That was phenomenal.
Sharon High did... it was about a bird... Smann's junior year... The Crane Wife! It was called The Crane Wife. It was all origami, beautiful production.
Hamilton-Wenham did one that didn't win --- those other two shows were both state finals winners --- the year we were [at state finals] with Alchemy of Desire. That would have been 2012. The characters were a deck of cards, they were throwing cards. It was about how you can't really plan anything, it's all gonna happen. Very interesting. [EDITOR'S NOTE: My research tells me the show was called Making Sense.]
Why should students join Stage One?
You only get one chance at high school. I hear time and time again from kids who join when they're juniors or seniors, "I wish I had done this earlier." That isn't to say everybody should come down freshman year, because not everyone's ready to do it freshman year. I always say, "You find it when you're ready to find it."
But if you think you might want to do it, I definitely think you should try.