SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan Area High School took top honors in the regional drama festival in Skowhegan this weekend with its haunting production of “Bow Down,” a centuries old story of jealousy and murder.

Skowhegan, under the direction of Maura Smith and her husband Tim Wheeler, won first place in the Class A category for schools with more than 550 students.

The alternate was Erskine Academy with its one-act rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

In Class B, for schools with fewer than 550 students, the winner was Winthrop High School, with Central High School of Corinth the alternate.

“I’m very proud of our students for committing to this production that was very challenging material performed in a demanding theatrical style,” said Smith, an English teacher at Skowhegan High School. “There were a great deal of physical challenges and it’s a challenging piece of literature. The audience was very attentive — some people had never seen a piece like that before; they got something they were not expecting to see.”

The play is based on a traditional ballad of “The Two Sisters,” which has been performed for centuries in northern Britain, Scandinavia and North America. It was performed by Skowhegan players in three languages, often simultaneously — Danish, Old English and contemporary English.

The cast and crew of 28 includes the Fair Sister and her alter ego; the Dark Sister and her alter ego; along with storytellers and musicians playing quietly, live on stage.

The Skowhegan version of “Bow Down” adapted by British poet and playwright Tony Harrison, involves jealousy between the two sisters. The Fair Sister is drowned by the Dark Sister.

“One murders the other and in the end both suffer the consequences of jealousy and betrayal,” Smith said.

The body is discovered by a miller’s daughter, whose father proceeds to strip the dead sister of her jewelry. Her bones and hair are then turned into a musical harp, which sings the confessional of the Dark Sister.

Skowhegan’s performance was Saturday night, as was the presentation of “Ubu” by Madison Area High School under the direction of Cheryl Seamans. While Madison did not advance to the state finals, Smith said the panel of three judges praised the production and provided positive feedback for the play.

Other regional festival locations this past weekend were held at Mount Desert, Leavitt, Camden Hills, Sterns, Freeport, Windham and Marshwood high schools. The state finals are set for March 23-24. The Class A finals will be at Falmouth High School and Class B will be held at Yarmouth High School.

The outstanding performance at each state final will be nominated by the judges to participate in the New England Drama Festival, April 26-28 in Gilford, N.H.

A list of regional winners are posted on the Maine Drama Council website

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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