The Journey of Umbrella: An Exhibition

Senior Nada Tuffaha recites a monologue in Umbrella. Photo by Leila Greige.

Malden High’s Play Production class took part once again in the METG, or Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild, Drama Festival Preliminary Round with an original production written by the students. This year, after succeeding in the preliminary round and winning in semifinals with this original work, the class went on to the Finals on which took place from March 22nd to March 24th. 

As a grand send off and a huge way of wishing them good luck, a surprise was set up for them on the day of finals. During period seven on March 23nd, the Malden High band stood on the staircase and played as all of Play Pro’s students off as they descended the staircase in front of the Jenkins Auditorium.  Many of their friends also stood outside, making a pathway from the end of the stairs towards the bus, cheering and holding up umbrellas in reference to their play title. As the Play Production class drove off, Umbrella by Rihanna was blasted through some speakers as a grand finale. Junior Paige Pimental happily commented on how “[they] really felt the love as the school sent [them] off.”

Play Production created an original show titled Umbrella: An Exhibition. The performance follows Marge the Artist walking the audience through a series of stories that are diverse in background, presented as exhibits in an art museum. All the “exhibited” stories follow many different forms of family and friend relationships. The central theme of the whole theatrical production is that families can come in all different forms whether their by blood or chosen.

Divorced families, immigrant families, and adopted friend families, are all given a scene in the play, reflecting the diversity of Malden High School students.

The creative process was long and complex. Many decisions were held at last minute, some scenes were cut and others created “out of thin air.”  Improvisations began in late November, through December, going through many drafts and ideas. “Initially, we were going to write a play set in a foster home with Marge as all the children's foster mom,” explained Pimental. However they strayed onto a different path later on. The show wasn’t completely done until two days before preliminaries. “We worked on fixing everything until the absolute last moment we could, [because] we wanted it to be the best version of itself that it could be,” explained Junior Michayla Moody.  

One major inspiration to the students, was a video called “ The Umbrella Man”, a short documentary about the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. The dubbed “Umbrella Man” was man that was spotted on the sidewalk during John F. Kennedy’s drive through Dallas the day he was assassinated. What stood out about the “Umbrella Man” to historians was why he had an umbrella in the first place, for it was a sunny day in Dallas, Texas.

From that point, after briefly learning about this minor historical figure, improvisations and brainstorming began until they reach scenes that they enjoy and would like to use in their project.  With the documentary and their mix of ideas, it was decided that the umbrella would be used as a metaphor for families, something that will protect you but are also can break based the strength of a storm.

Play Production students Dexter Haag and Ariana Teixeira during one of their scenes. Photo by Leila Greige.

Junior Leticia Sindey said “there were a few days [where] we sat down and talked about family, sharing our own personal stories.” Senior Ramon Aguinaldo added that “sometimes we just played games and had fun then ideas would just appear,” Something that makes Umbrella: An Exhibition such a powerful production is because “aspects of the play are relatable to everyone” Junior Nathaniel Tortorella Silva stated. 

When it came to the preliminary round, there was a nervous energy. “A lot of us believed the show may not have passed,” Aguinaldo admitted. “Some believed that people would not believe in this project so strongly.” However, others remained positive whether it be by singing/dancing around or maybe making new friends with other thespians from different schools. To many of them, it was a joyful surprise that they won Preliminaries and would be moving on to the following stage.

When semi-finals came on March 10th, it was time to act their hearts out. There was a chance it would be their last so many gave it their all. Once again, the Play Production class and Umbrella: an Exhibition were victorious in another around, leaving so many shocked and overwhelmed with pride. “Last time I went to finals was in my sophomore year,” said Senior Ariana Teixeira. “That’s why it was so important for me to bring this show to finals”

Finals were a whole different ball game, radiating an intense vibe. Teixeira said that she could sense that schools were there to win”. Schools did remain friendly but after all, it was a competition. “It was nice to show [the] predominantly white and well funded schools what our great high school can do,” expressed Aguinaldo. There were also fourteen other shows held during the three days of finals, many of which were beautiful and also inspiring. “With so many shows,” commented Pimental, “we could possibly draw inspiration from them.”

Although Malden High did not place at finals, the journey of Umbrella had left an immense impact. “I think being able to open up to others is very brave,” praised Sidney. Opening up and sharing was a huge part of what started Umbrella and it really helped the group feel more connected and be able to understand each other.

“My favorite part,” elaborated Teixeira, “was watching [her] classmates completely devote themselves into this show”. Sean Walsh, the teacher for the play production class, said that his favorite part of the journey in Umbrella was the “courage and the honesty in the performers.”

The class thanks everyone who supported them and also those who watch their performance of Umbrella: An Exhibition in the Jenkins auditorium on Thursday, March 15th. “I fell in love with this show” says Moody, “and seeing how much it touched the audiences we performed for was such an honor.”

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