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Get schooled with Front Porch Arts Collective’s ‘Exception to the Rule’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Get schooled with Front Porch Arts Collective’s ‘Exception to the Rule’
‘Exception to the Rule” explores the lives of six black high schoolers stuck in detention. PHOTO: Courtesy Front Porch Arts Collective

Boston theatergoers will be transported back to high school in Front Porch Arts Collective’s production of “Exception to the Rule,” a poignant and comedic piece that explores the lives of six black high schoolers stuck in detention. Don’t worry; there won’t be a quiz, but tardiness is frowned upon. The show has all the humor and drama of high hormones, and provides a critical look at the inequities in education.

After school, the usual detention crew wonders how Erika, the school’s most promising student, has gotten in enough trouble to be held after with them. While they try to solve that mystery they also wonder at the unusual lack of a teacher or authority figure overseeing detention.

This production is Donovan Holt’s directorial debut. “It really drew me in, the humor of it, the discovery and the conversation of what it means to fully realize who you are,” says Holt. “And how resources and the lack of resources affects how you grow up and walk through the world.”

This production doesn’t just tell the stories of young people, it also stars them. Created in collaboration with Northeastern University and Suffolk University, “Exception to the Rule” includes a cast of both professional actors and theater students from Northeastern and Boston Conservatory. Including youth in the process, not so far removed from high school themselves, adds another level of connectivity to the experience. This production will serve as a launching point for Front Porch’s future plans for an apprenticeship program engaging young artists.

“We found this script while looking for fresh work to include in our ongoing play-reading series,” says Front Porch Co-Producing Artistic Director Maurice Emmanuel Parent. “Combined with Donovan’s hope to engage college students in our work, this felt like a way to connect with a new generation of actors, and give them reasons to stay and work in the city.”

Holt himself is in his final year at the Northeastern theater program and he says he knew people similar to the play’s characters while in school in Chicago. Many of the actors in the cast also have that kind of a personal connection to the material.

The young director hopes “Exception to the Rule” will spark dialogues about the education space and illustrate that the Black experience is not a monolith. There are other stories to be told beyond tropes and stereotypes.

“We’re disrupting the normal flow of a Boston theatre, both in the academic setting and a professional setting with young black talent,” says Holt. “I just hope that people come and enjoy [the show] — that they laugh. If they need to cry, they cry, and that it opens up conversations for how we can collectively do better.”

Exception to the Rule, Front Porch Arts Collective, theatre