October 24, 2021

Youth bureau has playwright

Katie Keyser/contributing photographer

Demmarie Boreland of Groton has been the playwright behind the children’s plays at the Cortland Youth Bureau Summer Drama Program for six years. Behind her Thursday at the Cortland High School auditorium is the cast from her latest, “Invisible.”

Nothing Demmarie Boreland envisions as a playwright ever turns out the same way on the stage.

“That’s what’s so exciting about it. You get to see how it’s translated through other people,” said Boreland, 25, of Groton.

Boreland has written six musicals for the Cortland Youth Bureau Summer Drama Program. Her latest, “Invisible,” for a cast of about 20 youngsters, debuted Thursday.

“It’s so great every year,” she said during a rehearsal at the school. “And the kids are always good.”

Boreland, a freelance writer, has an associate’s degree in general studies from Tompkins Cortland Community College and is a 2011 Cortland High graduate.

“I started writing plays in high school for the One Act Play Festival,” she said, starting in 2008 under the direction of English teacher Bill Lee.

“She always had great characters,” said Lee, now retired. In fact, her plays, “Greed, Love and a Funeral,” and “Till Death Do Us Part” won Cortland Repertory Theatre Pavilion Awards.

Boreland said her plays typically have some kind of outrageous element and a moral.

“’Invisible’s’ message was nobody is invisible. There’s something special about everyone,” she said.

Boreland’s youth shows typically last an hour. She likes to have 10 characters and an ensemble, because the youth bureau can have a lot of children who need parts.

She writes a song to highlight every major event, starting with a title, then creating the words. She sets it to music with computer software.

“It’s challenging. It can be stressful. I don’t have any background in song theory,” she said.

Ben Wells, program director of the Cortland Youth Bureau Summer Drama Program and a music teacher at Cortland High, adds pizzazz to it, Boreland said. “I am lucky he is able to do that for me.”

“The stories she writes are so compelling,” Wells said. “Her characters are well-rounded and unique.”

“She’s good at rhythm, melody and lyrics,” he added. “She needs help with orchestration and harmony.”

Boreland was Wells’ student at Cortland High, as well as being a part of the youth bureau summer drama program.

The characters in her plays, which take up to two months to complete, are caricatures, typically self-absorbed.

“They always change. It’s a children’s show. We have to show them what’s right,” she said. “They always learn by the end to be more caring and selfless.”

“I always put one comic relief character in there, someone dopey,” she said.

Sometimes Wells will ask Boreland to write the character as a female because a boy didn’t try out.

“We can say, ‘Can you have two more students in the show and write more lines?’ “ Wells said.

“This is homegrown. We can do what any other middle school does. But for six years now, we have been doing original shows,” Wells said. “The summer drama program has been going a long time: 51 summers. We take pride in providing theater education.”

Students learn direction, choreography and backstage production, as well as singing and acting, he said. “We have students from a lot of different schools.”

Boreland said her ideas “pop up throughout the day.”

“I have always been a day dreamer. I am a ‘what if’ kind of person. Normal things will happen. My brain will go off on tangents of ‘What if?’ “ she said. Then she writes. “It never quite follows the outline.”