On the Bay

A Backstage Star Is Born

Once a student at Mount Hope High School, Britney Verria is now the director of its theatre program

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When she took her last bow on the Mt. Hope High School stage in 2012, little did Britney Verria know that she would return a handful of years later to assume the roles of theatre teacher and director. But as she completes her second year on the Mt. Hope faculty, she can’t imagine anything different. In 2015 Britney graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Arts and began exploring work opportunities both near and far from Bristol. At the same time, Carol Schlink, Mt. Hope High School’s well-loved director and instructor of 15 years, was planning to leave. And as the saying goes, the rest is history. In addition to holding the teaching position part-time and taking ongoing education courses, Britney, like any other hardworking artist, waitresses two days a week at the Judge Roy Bean Saloon in Bristol. Britney can be contacted at: Britney.Verria@BWRSD.org

Since the age of 8 or 9 I was always listening to Broadway musicals. It was an obsession. I was always in shows at Kickemuit Middle School and Mt. Hope. I went to summer camps for musical theatre and film. I remember thinking during my sophomore year of college, “I don’t remember choosing to major in theatre.” It was just something I always knew I was going to do. At Ithaca I started to realize there were other things to do than acting. I like storytelling and communicating different human experiences. To do it without being on stage gave me a really cool perspective and was a very different kind of adrenaline rush.

There is always that really enthusiastic group of theatre kids who are larger than life. I see a change. I don’t remember so many boys being in theatre when I was in high school. We have a surplus of talented boys who are also sporty. Maybe it’s become more accepted for boys to be in theatre. When I was in high school, boys in theatre were pretty stigmatized and were not always treated so well. It is pretty cool to see the change.

I almost get more nervous on opening night as a director than I ever do as an actor. It is so out of your hands as a director. I always tell my students that in professional theatre, the director flies home after the opening night and the stage manager runs the show. When I directed Antigone in college, I consciously did not go to two of the shows because it is not the director’s show anymore. The same is true now. I sit in the audience. The students run the show.

Bye Bye Birdie
was done here 20 years ago and everyone knows it. We’re not looking at that production or the Broadway or revival version. That’s what I like about doing older shows. We get to do our thing and put our stamp on it.

Theatre was what I loved the most about high school. It was where my friends were and the best memories were made. When I took the job I realized the responsibility I had to give these students the same high school experience I had. The wall in the theatre room is covered with posters of past shows and they say, “Directed by Carol Schlink.” I remember when I put my first poster with my name on the wall and it really hit home that I am now part of Mt. Hope’s theatre legacy.

The Mt. Hope High School Masqueraders will present Bye Bye Birdie on Thursday, May 11; Friday, May 12; and Saturday, May 13, at 7pm and Sunday, May 14 at 2pm, at the Mt. Hope High School Auditorium, 199 Chestnut Street, Bristol.