EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 18, 2013

Windham High theater great gets an encore role

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM — Jake Simard is remembered as a “theater legend” at Windham High.

Now, he’s back for an encore, but this time behind the scenes.

Simard, 19, is taking a year off from college to serve as the school’s theater director.

“It’s very different,” Simard said. “I don’t see myself as a director. I see myself as an actor who likes to teach.”

Simard left Windham High in its first graduating class of 2012.

But he is fondly remembered.

“The Windham High School community is thrilled to welcome Jake Simard as our theater director this year,” said Greg Racki, dean of social studies and foreign language. “Jake was a theater legend, probably most well know for his stunning performances as ‘The Phantom’ in our production of ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ and as Adolpho in our production of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.’’’

Simard is rehearsing with students for a production of “12 Angry Jurors,” an adaptation of Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Men,” which gained acclaim as a film starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam and Jack Klugman.

Simard is following in the footsteps of Sidney Lumet, who was nominated for an Academy Award as best director on the 1957 film.

There’s a reason it has been reworked at Windham High as “jurors” instead of “men.”

“We needed women,” Simard said.

There is a lot of passion in this drama.

“There are trials, tribulations and tempers will rise,” Simard said.

The show is about jurors trying to reach a decision after a trial.

“One juror believes the defendant is not guilty,” he said.

The plot revolves around that juror’s efforts to convince the others to acquit.

“This is definitely more of an ensemble piece. The majority of the cast will be on stage for 90 minutes, locked in the jury room,” Simard said. “This is not a one-man show.”

The show will be on stage at the school theater Dec. 19-21, with performances tentatively set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 and 20, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 21.

The student actors are putting in several hours a day rehearsing now, with longer days expected as they get closer to the performances.

Working with Simard as producer is Sophie Gandler, a recent graduate of Princeton.

Simard is enjoying his encore.

“This is my first play as sole director in charge of an ensemble younger than I am,” he said.

He remembered some of the upper classmen from their days as younger students and said there are a lot of bright new faces.

“It’s been a great experience,” Simard said.