“The playwright did a really good job of capturing the average teenager,” Dunn-Pilz said. “The emotions (CB) feels and the questions he is asking aren’t that far off from what I feel myself.”
A major topic addressed in the show is bullying and Zaleski said it is what has provoked the most response along the way.
“To be able to address the bullying with such honesty is very important,” she said. “For instance, when we performed in our first round, there were kids from other schools who were in tears.
“One of our kids is playing a gay character who was ostracized for being gay. And we have other kids coming up to us and saying, `Thank you for acknowledging that. It is very important to me.’ I just feel compelled to tell kids to be themselves. That’s why I love shows like this.”
Chodat, who plays CB’s sister, Sally, said talking about the issues as a theater group hasn’t been as much hard as it has been very serious.
“And I think the whole cast takes it seriously and that is what we focused on,” she said.
That sensitivity to the material helped Newburyport get past Cambridge, Attleboro, Peabody and Malden in the Dramafest semifinals March 9. The Newburyport troupe will now be performing against Weston and 12 other schools at the finals tomorrow night at John Hancock Hall in Boston.
“I now have bragging rights,” Dunn-Pilz said of being part of the first NHS production to make the finals. “I get to go back to all my (alumni) friends and point a finger in their face and say, `I won.’ But really, I’m just happy for the department.”
“It feels cool that our hard work paid off so much,” Chodat agreed.
If all this is a little too heavy for some, the NHS Theatre Department will be presenting the flip side to the Peanuts coin next month when the troupe performs a production of the all-age-appropriate “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”