“Hurricane Diane” competes at festival, will return to NECC

Photo courtesy Brianne Beatrice

The spring semester started with a bang for Northern Essex Community College theater students and professor Brianne Beatrice. They went right back into the theater to start re-rehearsing last spring’s production, Hurricane Diane.Beatrice learned just before the holiday break that representatives from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) selected the production as a finalist for the Region 1 Festival, taking place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3.

Regardless of the outcome, it won’t be the final curtain call for Diane. NECC Theater is restaging the production on the Haverhill Campus on  Feb. 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Feb.  25. Tickets are on sale now. 

“We have to remount the entire production to perform at festival,” says Beatrice. “All the students, everyone got right back into it. By next Monday, we’ll be good to go. We get there on a Tuesday, load in Wednesday, and perform Thursday.”

“Festival,” as it’s called, brings together hundreds of college theater students, professors, and professionals from New England and New York to showcase their work and share their expertise. Hurricane Diane was one of just six finalists chosen out of 60 productions, including shows from many prestigious, four-year schools.

“It’s crazy our work is being honored like this. They’re looking for good art, and our art is being recognized,” Beatrice remarks. This is the second show Beatrice has produced at NECC to be chosen for festival. The first was Stupid F*cking Bird in 2019.

A woman in a chair performs in a play.
Mirrorajah Metcalfe as Diane Photo courtesy of NECC News

The title role in Hurricane Diane is played by Liberal Arts: Writing major Mirrorajah Metcalfe of Haverhill. AmericanTheater.org describes the character as “a permaculture gardener dripping with butch charm.” In reality, Diane is the Greek god Dionysus. She’s returned to the modern world to gather mortal followers and restore the Earth to its natural state. Where better to begin than with four housewives in a suburban New Jersey cul-de-sac? The comedy serves as a commentary on the blind eye we all turn to climate change and “the bacchanalian catharsis that awaits us, even in our own backyards.”

Four more Northern Essex students round out the cast: Olivia Barberian, Gwynnethe Glickman, Jessica Newey, and Ana Barrera. 

Metcalfe and Barberian were also selected to compete for Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships. 

Each will perform two monologues and a scene. Newey, meanwhile, is nominated for The LMDA/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award.

Winners in each award category, including the production, will move on to the national festival later this spring in Washington, D.C. Northern Essex offers a variety of theater and acting courses. Additionally, they stage several full productions and readings throughout the year.