Local Teens Produce “The Television Channel”

“It takes a community to raise a child” – a maxim taken seriously by the Knowlton community, which has quietly banded together to support the creation of the “The Television Channel,” which premiered last night at the Knowlton Playhouse. This wacky, exuberant play was written and staged by a group of 18 teens from Knowlton, Sutton and Foster, under the direction of the multi-talented Bill Jarand.

The seed for “The Television Channel” was planted last year when Jarand and Chris Freeman, with a grant from Community Services, worked with local teens to create and produce “Teen Life,” an original show that offered a peek into the lives of teenagers and their perception of how adults see them. Buoyed by last year’s success and the teens’ enthusiasm, Knowlton Players decided to underwrite a similar initiative this year and asked Jarand to direct the show.

“Knowlton Players wanted to give teens in our community an outlet for their creative talents,” said Jarand. Many others rallied round to provide rehearsal space, costumes and other support. The long list of supporters includes such institutions and individuals as the Community Services, St. Paul’s Church, Knowlton Pub, Margot Allen, Lois Hardacker, Sheila McManus, Chris Severs, Dan Whitham and Kate Wisdom.

Part social worker, part artistic director, Jarand worked with the teens two to three times a week for several months. “We did all kinds of crazy theatre exercises, lots of talking, lots of sharing of funny experiences and thoughts on the world,” said Jarand, who has sung, danced and acted in numerous Knowlton Players’ shows in addition to directing several of their productions. “Through creative elimination, we came up with a framework for a play.” The result is a one-hour multimedia production that invites the audience to take part in a brand new TV-watching experience.

Another big booster of this teen effort is storyland3, Knowlton’s newest multimedia production company, founded last year by Darleen Bell and Chris Freeman. A full-length production was too ambitious for the teen group to write and produce in just a few months, so storyland3 is staging “The Actor’s Nightmare,” a one-act play by U.S. playwright Christopher Durang, to round out the evening.

“We picked this play to complement the teens’ show, which is the main event of the evening,” said director Freeman. “It’s a dark comedy, a bit edgy and surreal, not something Knowlton audiences normally see. We’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

As for the teens, they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. Nearly half of them are veterans of last year’s show and several have performed in other local musicals and plays. A few, who admitted to run-ins with the law, stated that it was a good way to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. But for all of them, it was a great way to have fun. “Even though we come from different places and different schools, we’re all really good friends now,” said Courtney Heath, 14, and Will Vachon, 16. Ultimately, what could be better than that?


Cast and crew of “The Television Channel” (directed by Bill Jarand): Jaime Carpenter, Josh Dryburgh, Lisa Dwyer, Chris Fortin, Ryan Foster, Azalea Show Guenette, Dimitri Waltz Guenette, Keifer Guenette, Faith Hawthorn, Courtney Heath, Elise Holmes, Sarah Holmes, Riley Phoenix, Damien Pietraszkiewicz, Alex Pietraszkiewicz, Megan Savage, Ashley Therrien and Will Vachon.

Cast of “The Actor’s Nightmare” (directed by Chris Freeman): Darleen Bell, Aldyne Kerrigan, Jim (Ace) MacLellan, Julia Rohan and Jason Westover.

Production assistance provided by Barry Dwyer (sound design) and Danny McAuley (lighting).

At the Knowlton Pub Playhouse from May 16 – 19 and from May 23 – 26. Evening performances (Thurs. to Sat.) start at 7 p.m., Sundays matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for children. For reservations, call (450) 263-1061.