'Exception to the Rule'

Collab between Suffolk, Northeastern, and Front Porch Arts Collective centers Black student narrative
Actors on stage dressed as students in a classroom setting.
Professional and student actors perform in 'Exception to the Rule' during its run at Northeastern University. (photo: Lauren Scornavacca)

The Breakfast Club, but make it Gen Z. 

Front Porch Arts Collective, Suffolk University Theatre Department, and Northeastern University Theatre invite the entire community to the Modern Theatre for Exception to the Rule, a fierce and funny play by Dave Harris. The show will run March 7-17.

The play tells the story of six Black students, stuck in detention in the worst high school in the city, as they try to make it through, fighting, flirting, and teasing. 

Exception to the Rule is an opportunity to see young Black students in their community, in their school, dealing with the things that so many of us have experienced,” says Pascale Florestal, the lead producer on Exception to the Rule who also serves as both a visiting guest artist and theatre professor at Suffolk and as education director at Front Porch, a Black theater company committed to advancing racial equity in Boston. 

“Being able to see yourself on stage in a story that you can connect with is so powerful. A lot of our ethos and our mission at Front Porch is to represent the Black community here in Boston, to give them a place to be seen, to be heard, to experience theater together as a community, and then also to be a part of the building of that theater.” 

Florestal says the collaboration between Front Porch and the two universities will help this fresh narrative reach a wider audience. “Most shows at a college are a weekend long, maybe even just two performances. We really wanted to have an opportunity for more people to get to the show,” she explains.

Partnering with both schools allows for a run of 15 performances from late-February through mid-March. It also opens up transformative learning opportunities for Suffolk students. 

Mikey McCarthy and Pascale Florestal watch dress rehearsal from seats in the Modern Theatre; Mikey points to direct Pascale's attention to something on stage.
Production manager Mikey McCarthy, Class of 2024, discusses the production during dress rehearsal at the Modern Theatre with lead producer, Professor Pascale Florestal. (photo: Ben Hall)

Exceptional experiential education

As the curtain goes up on the student-centered play, another important story will be unfolding behind the scenes. 

This is the second leg of the show’s run. After a weekend of performances at Northeastern, production manager Mikey McCarthy, who will graduate from Suffolk’s theatre program this May, took on the challenge of moving both sets and talent to the Modern Theatre—a process that’s much easier said than done. 

Moving the sets and props involved coordinating not only staff and students from two different schools, but also two outside theatrical staging companies. McCarthy also received a crash course in personnel management, finding creative workarounds to fill vacant spots. 

“Our stage manager is going to be running the sound and light boards, and another crew member is taking on costumes,” he says. “Figuring out what peoples’ skills are was an interesting challenge, along with negotiating contracts, adjusting things slightly to make sure that everything works.”

McCarthy credits Florestal with helping him develop his skills and confidence. “Where maybe I’m falling short, she is generous with her experience and helps find alternative ways to do things. Where I’ve excelled, she reminds me that I’m doing a really great job and that I shouldn’t question myself.”

He’s also thankful for the chance to work on a production that addresses complex themes, unlike the more light and commercial shows he helped stage in high school, he says. “With Front Porch, I’ve been given this opportunity to work on something that I probably wouldn’t have experienced, that’s all about hearing those diverse stories and pushing them to the forefront.” 

This three-organization collaboration offers a critical opportunity for Suffolk students to gain hands-on experience on and off campus and expand their networks, says Florestal. So often, she says, what separates young people from getting the jobs they want when they graduate is having those experiences and references that lead to greater professional opportunity. 

As he prepares to embark on a career in production management, McCarthy values his time with Exception to the Rule and other shows and the relationships he’s developed with faculty and students at Suffolk and beyond. 

“I’m prepared to jump right out there,” he says. “I’m excited for what’s to come and less nervous.”

Facing the stage, set for the play 'Exception to the Rule' at the Modern Theatre. In the foreground, a student works on the technical aspects on a laptop.
Suffolk students put the final touches on the technical aspects of the play during dress rehearsal in Suffolk's Modern Theatre. (photo: Ben Hall)

See 'Exception to the Rule'

On Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. there will be a special free pre-show event, AFTER HOURS: The Exception to the Rule Student Night. All are welcome to experience open mic performances, food, music, and more. The show will immediately follow at 8 p.m. with a talk-back with the cast and director directly after the performance. Sign up for the open mic.

(Open Mic performances are limited to a maximum of three minutes in length. Only acoustic guitars are allowed as accompanying instruments. Microphone, speaker, and space provided.)

Tickets for Exception to the Rule are $25 for the general public and $15 for students. Purchase tickets. For questions or assistance, please email the box office at [email protected].


Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs

Andrea Grant
Office of Public Affairs