In a fictitious town called Almost, Maine, eight couples struggle with love and loss under the Northern Lights.

In a fictitious town called Almost, Maine, eight couples struggle with love and loss under the Northern Lights.

The lessons they learn will be passed on to the audience of Almost, Maine, the culmination of New Albany High School's summer academy production course.

The romantic comedy will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, through Saturday, Aug. 4, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, in Mershad Hall at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, 100 E. Dublin-Granville Road in New Albany. Tickets will be available at the door and are $5 for students, seniors and employees and $10 for general admission.

Senior Trevor McInnes and junior Haley Wilson said audiences may learn from the performances that love doesn't always work out.

"(The stories) don't really have a perfect ending," Wilson said. "It kind of ends with some questions unanswered, but it ends with a feeling of hope.

"It's not like a normal romantic comedy. It's a more whimsical take on it. All the people have their own personalities. They can be quirky and strange."

The students have been involved in more than just acting during the production: They also learned about casting, staging, directing, lighting and sets during the summer course.

"It's really about learning how to prepare a play for a public performance," said Elliott Lemberg, New Albany High School's drama director. "It's not just about their role as actors or technicians. They look at this in a different way than they would during the school year because they have the time and the flexibility to do so."

Lemberg said the students can focus on all aspects of the production in the aptly named course.

"They get to invest more of themselves in it, because it's not part of the school year and they don't have everything else that's going on in the school year," he said.

The students also are learning from three New Albany High School graduates who came back to help: 2011 graduates Evan Cullinan and Sheridan Spychalski and 2012 graduate Luke Davis.

Cullinan, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in fine arts with a focus on acting at Ball State University, is co-directing the production. Lemberg said Cullinan has worked with the actors on their movement, which is critical to the production because of the way the audience seating is arranged.

"We've staged this in the round, which means the actors are surrounded by audience members (on all four sides)," Lemberg said. "It's very Shakespearean."

Lemberg said because actors have their backs to part of the audience at all times, they are challenged to move around and face different sets of audience members. He said the students have worked with an audience on two sides, but never on all four sides.

"It works well with this play," he said.

Students taking the summer academy course earn one full credit in the arts or as an elective, Lemberg said.

McInnes has taken the course one step farther, using it as his senior seminar project. The senior seminar project is a graduation requirement at New Albany High School.

McInnes said he is working as the production's stage manager, writing down the stage movements, giving actors their lines during practice, making sure all the set pieces are on stage at the right times and making sure the actors are on stage at the right times.

"It's been interesting to sort of see a different perspective," he said. "You get to see how Mr. Lemberg creates these scenes."

McInnes categorized actors as gears and the director as the actual machine, which causes the gears to move.

He said he has been acting in plays since age 10, when he lived in Chicago. After moving to New Albany, he continued acting his freshman year and is part of the New Albany High School honors actors studio course this fall, in which he and other seniors will help teach their peers.