Two students holding scripts in theater

The curtain goes up this evening (Tuesday, November 14) on Holyoke High School Theater Company’s three-show run of “Our Town” that depicts this classic tale of small-town living—and dying—performed in both English and Spanish.

In all, 27 students in grades 9-12 helped bring the show to life under the leadership of Theater & Media teacher Bevan Brunelle. The full cast and crew included Darius Baez, Kelcy Brunelle, Miguel Daily, Davier Diaz, Linken Geddis, Qua’nae Golston-Thomas, Aniya Gomez, Talitha Hernandez, Gabi Knowlton, Angel Lemanski, Isaias Lopez, Jayden Lopez, Eren Mateo, Liamar Martin, Fynn Maldonado, Sabby Morris, Cassidy Padua, Aiden Pares, Kiaree Perry, Michael Rivera-Pagan, Aidan Fontanez-Courchesne, Mya Rodriguez, Nick Rodriguez, Lily Tapion, Jennaya Tores, Sage Vermes, and Alaina Vargas.  

“I had the special opportunity to sit down recently with two Holyoke High School North seniors who were an important part of this production,” said HPS Chief of Strategy and Turnaround Erin Linville. “They are both fabulous student leaders, and I thank them for allowing us to share their stories with you.”

Jayden Lopez

Jayden Lopez, an “Our Town” producer, was born and raised in Holyoke. Although his first year of high school was mostly remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he joined the Performing and Media Arts Academy and became involved with plays in 10th grade. He started as a backstage crew member, moved onto acting, and now is directing and producing in large part thanks to support from his teacher and director Bevan Brunelle, who he said encourages students to become involved with all aspects of a production. 

“I think it's cool that a lot of people who work on the shows are also athletes. There are different seasons to be involved with the play and with sports. You don’t only need to be involved with theater,” he said, noting that theater helps “you learn patience, teamwork, and a lot of other life skills.” 

Jayden is about to begin a six-month internship with the HPS Communications team working on video and photography projects, with support and guidance from HPS Media Center Director Michael Hines. After graduating next spring, Jayden plans to go to college to study comedy, film and production, and/or writing. His teachers agree that his robust extracurricular activities, including singing with the HHS  North Madrigal Choir, and his leadership skills will make him a competitive candidate wherever he applies for college.

Qua’Nae Golston Thomas

Qua’Nae Golston Thomas plays two roles—Mrs. Gibbs and Professor Willard—in her school's production of “Our Town.” She noted that it was challenging for cast members to master some of the dialog because “the word choice and sentence structure used from more than 100 years ago is different from how we speak today.” Qua’Nae said she appreciates Ms. Brunelle’s intentionality in selecting this multilingual play that everyone could enjoy. 

When Qua’Nae came to HHSN as a sophomore, she never imagined being in theater. She joined the Community and Global Studies Academy because she was drawn to helping the community and also was considering pursuing a law degree. She is a teaching assistant for the Ethnic Studies: Leadership in Action class, which is an interdisciplinary study of race and ethnicity, as understood through the perspectives of major underrepresented racial groups, where students build a deeper understanding of structural inequality and think about ways to take action against inequalities. Qua’Nae is also interning with the HPS Manager of Culturally Responsive Education, where she organizes field trips and guest speakers for ethnic studies classes and provides peer support in the middle schools. 

After she graduates from Holyoke next June, Qua’Nae still plans to pursue law and ultimately would like to become a Supreme Court Justice. She is primarily interested in attending a historically black college or university (HCBU). Although she hasn’t yet toured any of her top-choice colleges, she advises high school students to utilize social media—especially TikTok—to gain a good perspective on what life as a student at that school would be like.