North Branch students deliver self-written play with philosophical theme

RIPTON — Theater enthusiasts will have an opportunity to witness a “Mad World” at the Ripton Community House this weekend. “Mad World” is the name of the original play that the North Branch School students have written and will perform twice, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13.

This is the 11th year in a row that students at North Branch — a nonprofit, independent middle school in Ripton — have developed their own play. Last year’s North Branch School play was titled, “Soul Survivors: Shipwrecked Edition.”

The backdrop for this year’s offering is a fictitious prison that North Branch School head teacher Tal Birdsey said is patterned after a former jail in Ottawa that has been repurposed into a hostel. Students stayed at that hostel during a recent field trip.

“The play is about being stuck in this prison, seeing if (the students) can get out or not,” said Birdsey, who will direct the play.

He explained the student actors/playwrights imagined themselves in “Mad World” as petty criminals who mature as human beings during their elusive quest for parole. The three-hour play includes farcical moments interspersed with some serious moments. “Mad World” includes some songs, poems and some great dialogue through which the students tackle philosophical questions.

“It is a potpourri of everything we have been studying this year,” Birdsey said. The theme of this year’s curriculum at the school is “utopia.”

“Mad World” features 50 characters, so some of the 28 students will be performing multiple roles.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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