Nolan Gibbons was a young man whose love of all things musical manifested itself at a very young age. His mother, Sheila, and father, Warren, dedicated themselves to giving their son all the opportunities possible for a musically gifted child. To that end, Sheila would spend many hours taking Nolan to and from rehearsals and performances, many of which were produced by the Break a Leg Theater Works in Plymouth.
With Nolan’s untimely passing last summer, his many fellow performers, family, and friends were at a loss. Slowly it was decided that Nolan’s legacy should be one of supporting and inspiring other young performers as they pursued their dreams as Nolan had.
Nolan, who lived in Marion, was only 15 years old when he passed away suddenly on August 18.
Recently, the Old Rochester Regional School Committee approved a memorial plaque to honor Nolan, which will be placed in the school and will include Nolan’s photo, a favorite quote, “Everyone likes to be themselves,” and a quick-response (QR) code to Nolan’s Spotify artist page.
The sophomore class had held a “day of purple” when students donned Nolan’s favorite color and raised funds to create the memorial in his name. They raised just over $600, and, while the plaque will only cost a fraction of that sum, the sophomore class wishes to donate the remaining funds to a scholarship created in Nolan’s name at A Capella Academy, a summer music camp that he especially loved.
During the fall, as the ORR Drama Club sought to find a way to perform, two converging thoughts came together: 1. The students would have to perform while maintaining social distancing; 2. They would bring Nolan into a production he would have been part of by incorporating some of his original compositions. It also gave this group of young thespians the vehicle for confronting and expressing their grief.
ORR Drama Club Director Jacob Shelburne explained that selecting the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters provided an opportunity for the club members to not only perform but also to remember their fallen classmate. Further, Shelburne said that the individual monologues which comprise the piece lent themselves more fully to the necessity of presenting the club’s performance via an internet platform (YouTube).
And not only was the Drama Club exploring the depths of human emotion and ancient themes of right, wrong, love, and death, but they could also use some of Nolan’s music. The club decided to use their two live-streamed performances as a fundraiser for Break a Leg Theater.
Donations can be given to the Nolan Gibbons Scholarship Fund/Break a Leg Theater at www.breakalegtheater.com.
The story itself is very dark, with Scene One of a cemetery where deceased residents of the fictional town Spoon River return to share their hidden feelings and histories in monologues. The original published work has some 214 separate voices of free-verse poetry. It was not an easy road by any standard for an actor to take on, especially when adding the rather cumbersome Victorian use of the English language. Yet the ORR Drama Club did an outstanding job delving into the characters they were asked to inhabit, as they spoke from their graves of unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Remarkably, the students were also able to bring out the tender moments as well.
The plan had been to perform the piece outdoors, but when restrictions on gatherings were implemented, Sherburne said the piece was reworked using video. The actors were individually videotaped and, through the editing process and the use of green screens, brought together so the viewer can see both individual speeches and interactive moments throughout the production.
The large cast included: Bessie Pierre (Death), Bella Carrillo (the passerby), Emma Vivino (Horace), Lee Grondin (Dr. Meyers), Ella Caesar (Minerva Roberts), Jackson Veugen (Dillard Sissman), Lucy Zhang-Yee (Dorcus), Savannah Teixiera (Ms. Bliss), Amaya McLeod (Mrs. Reece), Bella Hunter (Liz Childers), Molly Dupre (Serepta), Drew MacGregor (C. French), Chloe Bean (Davis Matlock), Izzy Friedrichs (Lucy Matlock), Maya Blouin (Sarah Sibley), Rebecca Milde (Hiram Scates), Emma Williamson (E. Purple), Connie Friedman (S. Compton), Chris Bell (Harry Wilmans), Aiden Harrington (Godwin James), Eloise Casi (Nellie Clark), Katelyn Luong (Elmer Karr), Catt Nunes (Georgine Miner), Mason Tucker (Eugene Malloy), Tyler Trudeau (the druggist), Cassie Charron (C. Cheney), Jess Vance (A.D. Blood), Max Tucker (Tennessee Shope), Alexis Morgan (Professor Moon), Lila Bangs (Sister Malloy), and Tom Berry (Elijah Browning).
Original musical pieces produced, played, and sung by Nolan were permitted by his parents. The production and stage team included Tiago Duarte, Emily DellaCioppa, and Bailey Gosse. Wardrobe manager was Alice DeCicco-Carey, and production and poster design was led by Taylor Green. Sound producer was Hannah Furtado, and assistant director was Beth Trout.
Sherburne gave special thanks to the Gibbons family, Codie Patnaude of ORCTV, and Jody Dickerson of the Marion Recreation Department. To see Spoon River for yourself, visit YouTube.
By Marilou Newell