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Twins shared spotlight on Williams stage, now off on their own separate paths

Twins Meira and Keren Doherty have shared the spotlight at The Williams School in New London for six years, captivating audiences with their talents as they recited Shakespeare, belted out power ballads, composed original songs and danced their own choreography across the stage.

Now, the recent graduates are off down their own paths, heading to separate schools in Boston this fall.

For Meira "Mimi" Doherty, her future is as clear as it is bright — she plans to study public health at Tufts University on a pre-med track, following in the footsteps of her parents, both doctors, and her older brother, Daniel, who just graduated with a degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University. Next, she’ll head to medical school. She’ll be a surgeon and then president of the United States, her sister said, only half-joking.

For Keren "Keri" Doherty, the possibilities are endless as she embarks on a new journey at Northeastern University, unaware of where her studies might take her. The talented singer, actress and choreographer also has a knack for language, studying the highest levels of Spanish and Latin that Williams had to offer. In their “senior prophecies” — predictions of where students will go after Williams — her sister joked that “she’ll be the most likely to change her major four times” and then write a musical and “become the next Lin Manuel Miranda.”

As the twins move from sharing a home in Waterford and classrooms and the spotlight at Williams to living and studying a few miles apart in Boston, they look back fondly on their time at Williams, a school where they said they always felt challenged, encouraged and supported by their teachers and peers.

One of their favorite classes was fifth-level Latin, where translating "The Anead" turned into passionate discussions on feminism today, womanhood in ancient Rome and Greece and deep philosophical talks about the twins’ religion, Judaism, and Christianity in the all-girl class.

“People always knew when I came out of that class,” Mimi said, “Because I’d be so fired up. It was such a strong feminist experience.”

The twins, two of 43 seniors who participated in a socially distanced in-person graduation ceremony earlier this month, said they also felt fired up by their peers over the course of their six years at Williams. Though the academic curriculum was rigorous, the girls said grades were never a source for competition between their peers or each other.

“People always think that we’re very competitive, but as with the Williams community, it’s not a competition,” Mimi said. “It was always positive and everyone was always trying to make everyone else happy so they can do the next great thing and push themselves forward.”

Outside of the classroom, the twins' interests spanned a wide variety of activities at the school — from student government for Mimi and judiciary committee and service committee for Keri, to roles as head ambassadors, mentoring and giving tours. The sisters were both involved with the Foundation for the International Medical Relief for Children program, working with the organization’s headquarters and helping to raise money for Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli organization especially close to their hearts following a trip to Jerusalem with their summer camp in 2018.

Mimi and Keri "have fully exemplified our core values of Scholarship, Character, and Community, we are proud of all that they have achieved in their studies, the arts, and service to others,” Head of School Mark Fader said. “While their similarities are considerable, each Doherty is a unique and prized individual in our community.”

Since they first started at Williams in seventh grade, the stage has been their home away from home. One of their favorite activities has been dancing with the Compchorea dance program, where Keri choreographed an original piece.

“It’s something you can really throw yourself into, it’s a creative outlet that you don’t always get in a high school experience,” Mimi said.

“Whether it's dance, sports games or academic achievements, everyone is so supportive and just trying to build each other up to get to the next greatest thing,” she said. “It's really helped us, since especially as twins people try to pin us together a lot, it’s just been so nice to have that community.”

Their biggest sense of community, the twins said, came from the theater program, where they combined their passions for singing, acting and dance on stage. They first stepped into the spotlight in seventh grade for a production of "You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown," in which Mimi played Peppermint Patty and Keri played Snoopy, and then went on to be in "The Lion King," with Mimi playing Timon and Keri playing Rafiki.

In the shows, they learned a variety of new skills. Mimi learned to play the ukelele, Keri learned sign language. They both learned how to work with puppets and balance bottles on their heads. Keri helped out with younger students' productions and Mimi tried her hand at directing this fall.

Keri’s favorite role, she said, was playing Maureen in "Rent."

“It completely made me step out of my comfort zone, I kissed a girl and strutted around in a crop top on stage and it was a lot of fun,” said Keri, who credited Jane Martineau, director of the theater department at Williams, with helping her understand how to be her character.

Mimi’s favorite role was one she played alongside her sister — the pair played Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus in Shakespeare’s "A Comedy of Errors." It helped her conquer a fear of performing Shakespeare and pushed her to have fun with it.

Martineau said she was captivated by the twins’ talent while watching them on stage in "A Comedy of Errors." From then on, they continued to have “a tremendous impact” on the theater department, she said.

“They were cornerstones in the building of the department while they were there,” said Martineau, who described the girls as her “right hand on many occasions,” making sure the department was running smoothly and serving as mentors to budding thespians.

“They were incredibly helpful with keeping younger actors focused and taking them under their wing,” Martineau said. “They are so sweet and inviting and welcoming to everybody.”

Martineau said she was struck by their talent once again this year, when the twins took their experience learning about the Holocaust on a trip to eastern Europe into plays for their senior project for an advanced theater class. When the class took an unexpected turn because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the twins turned their scripts in shadow puppet plays that she said were extremely moving and powerful.

“They’re truly remarkable young women, I am really going to miss them,” she said.

For their final project in their senior year, the twins have organized a blood drive, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, June 22, in the Daren Performing Arts Center at the school. As of Thursday, 53 of 57 donor spots had been filled for the drive, which the Dohertys said they decided to hold as a way to help others in need, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to higher demand for blood donations.

For Mimi, who plans to dedicate the next four years of her life to studying public health, living through a global pandemic has ignited her passion for the field. She said she thinks communication between nations and health care in the U.S. are things that could definitely improve, noting that people are “just slipping through the cracks of our health care system" and "not getting the care that they need."

Though the twins missed their last Latin class, their final bow after their spring musical and their last Compchorea dance due to the pandemic, they said they’ve been trying to remain positive. They were still able to have their graduation ceremony and put on a version of their spring musical, "Pippin," recording songs for a virtual showcase.

The twins agreed that although their senior spring semester wasn't what they expected, it was certainly special and memorable.

“I think we made the best out of the situation,” Mimi said.

t.hartz@theday.com 

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