Holyoke Voices Heard in Original Drama Club Play

This year, the HHS drama club presents a show of their own creation: “Voices From Beech Street.”


Kenny Roche ’17 and Jehovanie Almeyda ’17 get the drama crew ready for their performance.

On December 4 and 5, the Holyoke High School Drama Club will be putting on their annual production. This year there is a slight twist though: instead of putting on a play written by professional writers, drama club members Kenny Roche ’17 and Jehovanie Almeyda ’17 wrote their own play that tackles issues that matter to HHS and the Holyoke community at large.

Roche and Almeyda were inspired by the multitude of stories on the news and in our community involving racial prejudice, stereotypes, and unfair treatment of people. They were also motivated by a visit from the National Players last spring where they watched a production of To Kill A Mockingbird, and participated in a workshop where they were taught about stage combat. They pitched the idea to the drama club advisor Ms. Sweeney immediately after the production in May, but viewing it as a dream, did not do any work on the play until this past fall. Upon their return to school, Ms. Sweeney urged them to act on their inspiration. Roche and Almeyda rose to the occasion and together with other members of the drama club, wrote a script for the show in only one month.

The show is titled “Voices From Beech Street” and is split into three different acts, each act dealing with a different issues facing the community today: sexual stereotyping, racial tension, and the complex issues around police brutality.

The first Act of the play centers around police brutality, and this controversial topic initially raised some objections from the community, as some feared that this show would be an attack on police. Faced with those criticisms, the drama club reached out to Holyoke Police Department’s Captain Matthew Moriarty and our school’s own resource officer Manuel Rivera to make sure police voices were also heard around this complex social issue. Their input helped the students draft the scenes that deal with police brutality to be authentic and made sure both sides of the argument are represented.

Emma Price gets into her role as a cop who is a little too tough on the suspects.
Emma Price gets into her role as a cop who is a little too tough on the suspects.

Act I centers around a rookie cop – it’s his first day on the job. The rookie named Ben (portrayed by Jack Moriarty ’17) is partnered up with an older more experienced cop named Trisha (Emma Price ’16), who has unfortunately been hardened by the job and all the difficulties that come with being a police officer. Trisha’s personality is a stereotypical one and senior Emma Price admitted that it is a hard role to portray. “Trisha represents an unfortunate negative stereotype of a police officer, ” says Price “The most important part of her characters is her development throughout the show, and in the end when she realizes what she has done is wrong, and she needs to get help.”

Act II tackles a different social issue: it deals mostly with racial differences as it follows a Puerto Rican teenager named Alex (portrayed by writer/director Kenny Roche ’17) who is trying to just fit into the high school atmosphere as well as trying to find out who he really is. While he is trying to balance fitting in with his friends, family, and his love interest Ellie (portrayed by Nanette Mendieta ’16), he also struggles with whether he should downplay or assert his cultural identity. This is the act that the drama club anticipates with resonate strongly with Holyoke High students: what does it mean to be caught in several worlds but not feel like you truly belong to any of them?

The third act touches base on other stereotypes not mentioned in the first act, and it also ties the storylines from the previous two acts together. This is the most light-hearted section of the play, and it offers a humorous tone on the otherwise serious issues addressed in the first two acts.

Roche, Almeyda, and the rest of the drama club think that the show is going to be a learning experience for all, but in a way that is more reflective than offensive. Although they are dealing with the controversial concepts like racial tension and police brutality, they are tackling in a way that doesn’t “blame” anyone and in a way that shows all sides to complex issues. They also hope that students and older audience members can learn from the production.

This year more than any other the drama club took a leadership role in the production of their play.
This year more than any other the drama club took a leadership role in the production of their play.

“The biggest reason that we came up with this show is that everyone, no matter what it comes down to, has problems but everyone has to come together to fix their issues,” says Roche. “I really want people to learn that you can’t stereotype, students should really be interested in the show and everyone should learn from this, we want to teach them while making them laugh.”

The show has received the explicit and strong support from acting principal Stephen Sullivan and Drama Club advisor Ms. Angela Sweeney.  Sweeney feels this is an important production because students have taken real ownership of the production, with Roche and Almeyda taking on the responsibilities of creative oversight, production, tryouts, and rehearsals. “This self-direction and motivation is what a high school drama club should be about,” says Sweeney. “As a teacher, my goal is always to get students to eventually move toward independence. This show exemplifies that wish and the accomplishment of it.”

Make sure to clear your schedules for the first weekend of December so you can attend this wonderful project that really shows off the talented students we have at the high school!

Friday December 4th at 4pm
$3- children, students, seniors
$5- general admission

Saturday December 5th at 7:30pm
$5- children, students, seniors
$8- general admission