School Notes: Thetford Academy Students Take Their One-Act Show on the Road

  • Thetford Academy student Malcolm Silver-Van Meter, center, rehearses a scene from "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)" with classmates Eli Kaliski and Hallie Zens in Thetford, Vt., on April 18, 2018. The three actors and nine people working behind the scenes will be performing the one-act play at the New England Drama Festival. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Drama teacher Ray Chapin show students Eli Kaliski, left, Hallie Zens, and Malcolm Silver-Van Meter the theater they will be performing in for the New England Drama Festival. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Thetford Academy student Eli Kaliski rehearses a scene from "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)" in Thetford, Vt., on April 18, 2018. Students will be performing the one-act play at the New England Drama Festival. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Thetford Academy students Malcolm Silver-Van Meter, left, Eli Kaliski and drama teacher Ray Chapin prepare to rehearse in Thetford, Vt., on April 18, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2018 12:05:05 AM

Thetford Academy junior Eli Kaliski first encountered the wit and wisdom of William Shakespeare as a fourth-grader at Thetford Elementary School, watching the fifth- and sixth-graders perform The Taming of the Shrew.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Kaliski recalled last week. “I was very confused.”

Seven years later, he’s portraying multiple characters in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised), an hourlong mash-up parody of the Bard’s plays that a 12-member team from Thetford Academy will perform at the New England Drama Festival this week.

To tune up for the competition and to raise money toward their travel expenses to and from Gilford, N.H., they’ll stage a benefit show tonight at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction.

“If it was a conventional staging of Hamlet or one of the other major plays, I probably would have been less interested in it,” Kaliski said. “It’s very playful. I like that extra comedic quality.”

During the Vermont Drama Festival in Springfield earlier this month, judges liked the way Kaliski, Malcolm Silver-Van Meter and Hallie Zens performed well enough to send them and their nine backstage colleagues to the New England contest, set for Thursday through Saturday.

In addition to acting awards for Silver-Van Meter and Kaliski, the Vermont festival honored dressers Grace Clement, Emma Bauer, Anabel Reining and Marian Zens for keeping up with quick switches of wardrobe. The school last qualified for the regional competition in 2010.

“This is a significant accomplishment for the cast and crew from a small high school,” theater team and TA English teacher Ray Chapin wrote during an exchange of emails last week. “The roles are quite challenging as three actors must maintain a high level of energy throughout, as well as a total commitment to the physical demands of the script. … There are dozens of costume changes that have to be made, and the four student dressers work nonstop backstage to help actors into costumes from dresses for Ophelia, Juliet and her nurse to (clothes for) Hamlet, Polonius and Titus Andronicus — as an Iron Chef.”

In addition to the three actors and the four dressers, the backstage crew includes Megan Graber (lighting design and light board), Fritz Junker-Boyce (spotlight), Gretta Koeppers and Lulu Shi (soundboard) and Clare Swanson (stage manager).

The journey to New Englands began almost a year ago, when Chapin announced that his 2017 fall play class would, in November, present The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), the full, two-act play, originally written and performed by the British ensemble of Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield. To prepare, cast and crew first attended a production in Boston of Romeo and Juliet in August.

In October, the Classic Repertory Company of Boston performed Othello at the academy, then led a workshop for the class.

And after the production of the complete Complete, the core members of the cast and crew started preparing the one-act version for festival season, which presented its own challenges.

“Each time we do it, we’re performing in a theater that’s totally new to us,” Silver-Van Meter said on Friday. “It’s so much fun, but it also adds a lot of uncertainty. My character does a lot of audience interaction and leaves the stage a number of times, so those parts work completely differently from one theater to the next.”

The changes also tested Hallie Zens, who performed with Silver-Van Meter in the original cast.

“At first we would continue speeches that had been cut back, do the wrong blocking, or say a line that someone else’s character was now saying,” Zens recalled during an exchange of emails over the weekend. “But after a few rehearsals, we became immersed in the show enough to learn what was the same and what had changed.”

Kaliski, who watched and learned from the actors while serving on the technical crew last fall, is grateful to have had April vacation week to nail down his lines and timing.

“It was a lot of work,” he said, “but I’m glad I stuck to it.”

Thetford Academy’s cast and crew tune up for their presentation at the New England Drama Festival by staging a one-act version of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised) tonight at 7:30 at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Admission is by donation.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.)

A team of 17 students from six schools around the Upper Valley will represent Vermont at a world robotics championship in Detroit this week.

The Archtyas squad, whose members attend The Sharon Academy (TSA), Whitcomb High School, Woodstock Union High School, South Royalton School, Woodstock Middle School and the Upper Valley Waldorf School (UVWS) in Quechee, qualified for the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) competition by placing 22nd out of 209 teams competing at FIRST’s northeast regional competition over the second weekend of April.

The team, which meets in Bethel, made regionals by finishing third at the New England-divisional meet the previous weekend. Team members, by hometown, are:

Barnard — Steven Darling (Woodstock Union), John Scherer (Woodstock Middle School) and Mary Scherer (UVWS)

Bethel — Colin Laframbroise (Whitcomb)

Randolph — Elliot Tonks (TSA)

Royalton — Sophia Jerewicz (South Royalton School)

Sharon — Meadow McGalliard (TSA) and Ben Weatherill (TSA)

Stockbridge — Max Farrington (TSA), Carl Groppe (TSA), Jacob Ruben (TSA)

Strafford — Peter North (TSA)

Tunbridge — Scott Elderd (TSA)

Woodstock — Jack Barnhart (TSA), John Cassell (TSA) and Trace Barnhart (TSA)

Rochester — Jillian Sherwin (TSA)

The Vermont Treasurer’s office recognized two students from Fairlee’s Samuel Morey Elementary School and the entire student body of the Bethel Elementary School for their achievements in the agency’s financial-literacy programs.

Zofia Kosakowski was one of 5,000 Vermont students who participated in the agency’s “Reading Is an Investment” program, which teaches students about managing their finances. In a random drawing, Kosakowski received a $250 college savings account from the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

In the “Be Money Wise” poster contest, Morey School student Madlyn Shedd placed third in the elementary school division.

Bethel School’s elementary students achieved the highest school participation rate in the reading program, earning a Vermont Teddy Bear for their library.

Continuing Education

The Hartford Career and Technology Center in White River Junction is offering spring classes for aspiring licensed nursing assistants (LNAs) and for welders.

The LNA course, almost evenly divided between classroom work and supervised clinical experience, starts on Wednesday, meeting Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights and some Saturdays through June 22. Tuition costs $1,200.

The introductory course in welding meets Tuesday and Thursday nights between May 1 and 24, and includes instruction in metal-shop safety, metal fabrication, oxy-fuel brazing, oxy-fuel cutting, manual plasma cutting and stick welding. Tuition and registration, which cover materials and supplies, cost $385.

For registration forms, and for more information about other adult-education offerings, visit or email or call 802-359-4739.


The Upper Valley Classical Conversations program is accepting applications for its 2018-2019 “Challenge” classes for adolescent and teenage students receiving their educations at home.

The classes, held Wednesdays at Valley Bible Church in White River Junction, include Challenge A for age 12, Challenge B for ages 13 to 16 and, for high school-age students at the level of juniors and seniors, tutorials in subjects ranging from chemistry and Shakespeare to American history.

Parents and students interested in applying can observe these classes this Wednesday and on May 2. To arrange to visit the classes, and to learn more, email or call or text Pam Tengdin at 603-252-6501.

Educator Excellence

The New Hampshire Child Development Bureau this month conferred its Gwen and Henry Morgan Award on Claremont resident Kerry Belknap Morris, director of the early-childhood education program at River Valley Community College.

The award recognizes veteran early-childhood educators for promoting professional development in their field. Belknap Morris oversees three programs that award certificates and associate degrees, most recently the certificate in early-childhood education for infants and toddlers.

To learn more about early-childhood programs at RVCC, visit

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304. Education news also can be submitted to


Woodstock resident John Cassell, an eighth-grader at The Sharon Academy, was a member of the Archtyas team of Upper Valley students who competed at the world robotics competition held recently in Detroit. An earlier version of this story accidentally omitted Cassell from the roster.

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