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“Growing Pains”: WHS graduate’s feature film premieres

Penelope Biddle
Class of 2023 graduate Molly Morneweck onscreen at Somerville Theater in “Growing Pains.” In this follow up to last year’s spotlight on Morneweck, “Growing Pains” premieres.

Two years after she saw a casting call for the coming-of-age feature film “Growing Pains,” Molly Morneweck finally got to see the efforts of her high school summer of stardom come to fruition. She got to see the film premiere at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline.

The Wayland High School Class of 2023 graduate did not know what to expect that evening, walking into the world premiere of her movie at the the Boston International Film Festival, where she would see herself on the big screen for the first time.

“The first premiere at Boston International Film Festival, I was really, really nervous because I really had never seen [“Growing Pains”] before,” Morneweck said. “There were less people [at the premiere].”

The fewer people Morneweck referred to are in comparison to the attendance at the Growing Pains Community Premiere at the Somerville Theater on April 16. There, Morneweck had not only the comfort of having already seen the film’s successful first showing, but also of the many familiar faces beside her in the crowd. Being surrounded by the important people in her life made her less nervous about the second premiere, but so did the success of the first, which had occurred two days earlier.

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When Morneweck first spoke to WSPN about the film last year, she said she was excited for it to premier, planning to wear her prom dress and reunite with the people with whom she had worked on the film. At the Coolidge Corner Theater, she got just what she was looking for, sporting a formal gown and posing with her director and fellow cast members for red carpet photos. In the same breath, for last year’s article, Morneweck mentioned her anticipation for the premiere because it would be a celebration, and it was.

“[Somerville Theater] is a really, really beautiful venue, and so many people in the community were here supporting [‘Growing Pains’],” Morneweck said as viewers mingled in the lobby after the premiere. “I was really, really excited for tonight, for everyone to come see.”

The community premiere at Somerville Theater gave Morneweck’s family and friends their first chance to see the movie. The movie had a rowing plotline, so members of Wayland-Weston girls varsity crew team were extras in the film, and some of these former teammates of Morneweck were also in attendance. Also in attendance were current Wayland High School Theater Ensemble (WHSTE) members who Morneweck had acted with during her time at WHS. With them was drama teacher and WHSTE director Aidan O’Hara, who not only taught Morneweck acting but also had a connection to the “Growing Pains” director Catherine Argyrople from his former job teaching in Weston.

To further connect with the community present at the Somerville premiere, Argyrople (left) answers questions from the audience during a Q&A following the film. “I always say ‘it takes a village,’ so thank you for being my village and supporting this.” Argyrople said, addressing the audience. (Credit: Penelope Biddle)

“I thought both [Morneweck and Argyrople] did a remarkable job,” O’Hara said. “I knew Catherine and her family from [my] Weston Middle School days, so it was an interesting overlap of my different worlds.”

Morneweck and O’Hara at the “Growing Pains” community premiere. “Filling up a big high school auditorium definitely brings out a different set of acting values than, say, filling a frame for film and TV, which can be very challenging,” O’Hara said. “I find her people like Molly and some other kinds of actors sort of thrive in a lot of different environments.”(Credit: Penelope Biddle)

Morneweck was fitting for her role in “Growing Pains” due to her dual background in acting and rowing, as well as a scar on her torso that matches a description of her character Zoe’s scar, making the casting seem almost fated. Morneweck came to know of the role by a friend’s mother, but O’Hara mentioned that different avenues would have led her to the role of Zoe eventually, one way or another.

“The same postings that Molly saw, I would see sort of in, like, the drama teacher world, and I actually suggested [the role] to Molly,” O’Hara said. “But, she had already thought about it and was already doing it before I could even suggest it.”

Morneweck already matched the description of the role well enough to be recommended it multiple times and then get cast. However, when it was time to truly embody the character of Zoe, Morneweck had to tap into her broader life experiences, and into the interactions she has had with people who have impacted her. In the film, Zoe builds new friendships, but learns how that demands more effort be put into her old ones. From parents to teammates to friends new and old, many of the figures present in the life of Morneweck’s character are also present in her own. Argyrople had a similar experience of drawing inspiration from people in her life and then celebrating the film with them.

Molly Morneweck greets WHSTE members who have come to Somerville Theater to see “Growing Pains” during its community premiere. (Credit: Penelope Biddle)

“I have many friends from high school, from college here in the audience today – people I haven’t seen in over a decade,” Argyrople said at the community premiere. “Friends and people who support you and family, they’re everything. All that matters to you are the people you might have not talked to for years, but you pick up right where you left off.”

Argyrople explains that similar to her own life, the characters in the movie engage with each other and their community in a profound way.

“Just having your community to support you and love you really helps you get through hard times and challenges,” Argyrople said. “Like [the challenges] the girls face in the movie, they couldn’t have done it without each other and their friends and it’s just really important to lean on your community.”

Even with her own community there beside her, and it being her second time seeing the film, Morneweck said that watching her work was still, most of all, a shock to her as an individual.

“I feel so, so lucky,” Morneweck said. “It’s so surreal. It’s so great seeing the work I did a couple years ago finally being up on the silver screen.”

Molly Morneweck greets WHSTE members who have come to Somerville Theater to see “Growing Pains” during its community premiere. (Credit: Penelope Biddle)
Molly Morneweck greets WHSTE members who have come to Somerville Theater to see “Growing Pains” during its community premiere. (Credit: Penelope Biddle)

This story was originally published on Wayland Student Press on May 29, 2024.