Caribou High School drama students Brayden Ward (left), Allie Johnson (kneeling) and Matthew Nonken rehearse a scene from "Bad Ideas for Bad Television Shows" in which three police officers investigate a tipped-over cow, played by student Nevaeh Walker. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

CARIBOU, Maine — Thanks to a determined student from Texas, Caribou High School is rejoining the Maine theater scene. 

For the first time in seven years, the school has a drama club and will compete in March with students from Aroostook, Penobscot and Piscataqis counties.

Like many Aroostook high schools, Caribou has struggled with increasingly tight budgets. Administrative, academic and athletic expenses often leave little money for arts, and Caribou cut its drama club in 2015. Students seeking theater experiences had to join community programs, and weren’t eligible for statewide school contests. 

But much like when Hermon Middle School launched a theater club last fall, there was a huge interest in a drama club at the Caribou school.  

“In a couple of weeks, we had 20-plus students sign up. I had only expected a handful of kids to sign up,” sophomore Brayden Ward said. 

Ward’s family moved to Caribou from Round Rock, Texas, in 2021 just before his freshman year. An avid theater performer in middle school, Ward couldn’t believe his new high school did not offer drama programs. He wanted to fill the void.

At the start of his sophomore year in 2022, Ward went to Assistant Principal Ben Goodwin to ask about relaunching the drama club. With Goodwin’s encouragement, Ward posted a sign-up sheet.

Soon afterward, French and Spanish teacher Jonna Boure agreed to direct the club, with band director Rebekkah Willey coming on as assistant director. After seeing the student and faculty support, the school district agreed to fund the costs of travel and set design for the club.

“The administration is 100 percent behind the [drama] program and are very thankful for the dedication of Jonna and Rebekkah to bring this program to life,” Caribou High School Principal Jamie Selfridge said.

Boure had wanted to relaunch a theater club since she began teaching at Caribou five years ago. She had acted with local theater groups, including the Presque Isle Community Players, but this is her first time directing. 

The club will travel to Stearns High School in Millinocket for the Maine Principals’ Association and Maine Drama Council’s regional one-act play competition on March 10 and 11. They will perform the comedy “Bad Ideas for Bad Television Shows” by playwright Don Zolidis.

Caribou will compete against eight other schools in the Class B division, those with 499 students or less: Houlton High School, Fort Kent Community High School, Stearns High School, Orono High School, Old Town High School, Lee Academy, Mattanawcook Academy and Piscatiquis Community High School. 

If they win, Caribou’s cast of 17 students and six crew members will head to the state competition March 24 and 25. At both regionals and states, students perform plays in one act that are 40 minutes or less.

Though most students had little or no theater experience, they have grown comfortable with performing, Boure said.  

“Bad Ideas for Bad Television Shows” follows two NBC executives who have run out of good ideas. They open a contest allowing everyday people to pitch what they think are the next groundbreaking series.

Things don’t go exactly as planned. Along the way, the executives hear a variety of over-the-top pitches, including a romantic drama called “Veterinarians” and a “Law and Order” spinoff entitled “Caribou 911,” where police officers search for their car keys one minute and investigate a tipped-over cow the next.

“The students were quiet at the beginning [of rehearsals] and didn’t know each other well, but now they’re working together and that’s exciting to see,” Boure said. “The play has all these little scenes that allow them to play different characters.”

Even if they don’t win regionals, some students have already realized what they’ve been missing without a drama club.

“I’ve been told that I’m a very loud, flamboyant person, so drama is a good way to channel that,” 11th-grader Alan Saed said. 

For ninth-grade student Arrin Crocker, the drama club has been the best way to connect with more of his peers.

“Honestly, I was shocked when I found out that the school hasn’t had a drama club,” Crocker said. “It’s an opportunity to make friends. I think we’ve learned that things can be stressful [on stage] but you have friends who will be there for you.”

A week before the Maine regionals, the students will perform “Bad Ideas for Bad Television Shows” at Caribou High School’s Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. March 2 and 3. Tickets will be sold for $5 each.

Correction: A previous version of this story mispelled Ward’s first name and stated that a stipend was paying for the club’s travel.