Lights! Camera! Action! Rewind…!
By Jennifer Wu, SNN Editor, Roncalli Central High, Port Saunders, NL
"I was struck by the wonderful sense of ensemble presented at this festival. I have never seen a festival where every group was so well versed," said Roy Hansen-Robitschek, a stage craft and drama teacher at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
Mr. Hanson Robitschek took on the role of adjudicator at the 2003 Regional Drama Festival hosted by Roncalli Central High School. The groups he is praising are the drama groups from Roncalli Central High (Port Saunders), St. Joseph's All-Grade (Croque), and Harriot Curtis Collegiate (St. Anthony).
"All three schools put off outstanding performances; it was evident that the groups worked hard and long," Mr. Hansen-Robitschek adds. "And each play was entirely different from the others. It gives all young people the opportunity to see how to other groups handled the challenge of doing these individual plays."
Harriot Curtis Collegiate's performance, "The Last Journey" which follows Jewish mother Miriam Berken (played by Krista Howell) and her daughter Ruth (Michelle Richards) as they are forced into a Jewish concentration camp, was selected to represent the region at the Provincial Drama Festival. Krista Howell attributes their powerful performance to "a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent on practice." According to Krista, the cast practiced for a minimum of three days a week, for one to three hours each day, for the past three months to prepare for the regional drama festival. "Besides our roles, everyone had to chip in with props, lighting, sounds, vocals, everything!"
For Roncalli Central High School, the cast were also responsible for their props and costumes. But lighting and sound were taken care of by Ryan Wiltshire, music instructor at Roncalli Central High, who says "A lot of work goes into these performances. And it is not only materials for on stage; there are extra things besides just rehearsals. There is a lot of 'behind the scenes' stuff that has to be done."
Roncalli's play, "Is There a Ghost in the House" is a story about three friends who visit an abandoned mansion on a quest to disprove the existence of ghosts.
"A student's biggest thing to worry about (when it comes to their role) is that you have to make sure that everyone knows their role, and that everyone works together to make the play 'go with the flow'," comments Brook Biggin, who played cat burglar Bennie.
Hillary Patey, whose role in Roncalli's play was ghost Mrs. Meers, certainly had to do extra work to ensure her role 'flowed' well. "Mrs. Meers is a very elegant and graceful lady. I'm not! When I got my part, I had to try to talk proper, and consider my voice, enunciation, and pronunciation. I had to work on my posture as well. For a lot of our roles, you have to start perfecting your part as soon as you get it."
Roncalli Drama members practiced as a group "every day for like an hour or more, for the past two months," exclaims Hillary Patey. "But I also practiced for at least an hour each night by myself."
Like Hillary, Harriot Curtis Collegiate Drama members practiced and prepared on their own time as well. Jonathan Carroll, who played both the roles of S.S. Officer and a Kapo Officer, had to tackle learning two different accents—German and Polish. He says that "it is very difficult to play two roles… they are both so different. You end up having to practice twice as hard for the one play."
To gain insight on the way Jewish civilians were treated by the German officers, the Harriot Curtis Collegiate cast members often watched "Nazi war movies; and footage of dead people from the concentration camps."
St. Joseph's All-Grade cast members also had to put in extra work to achieve the right atmosphere for their play, "Leaving Home". This play was about a 1950's out-migrated Newfoundland family living in Toronto the year after Newfoundland Confederation. The father is struggling to cope with his two very Canadian sons who are both about to leave home.
Joshua Flynn had to undergo a wide range of emotions while playing Billie Mercer, one of the sons in the play who got his girlfriend pregnant and now has to get married. "Billie, my character, doesn't want to get married. When his girlfriend, Kathy, loses the baby, he knows it's a bad thing, but there's no pressure for him to get married anymore, so he's confused. He goes through a lot of different moods."
Much of St. Joseph's preparation included furnishing their set with props. They did a lot of fundraising and relied on their parents and donations a lot, according to Joshua Flynn and Travis Jones. "We received a bit of money from our school as well so we could buy some props," Travis says.
When all was said and done, St. Joseph ended up with an extremely detailed set—couches, tables, appliances, including a wall clock, doors and even complete with food for the table!
"The sets were amazing. St. Joseph's set, in particular, with all the additions, made it feel like a real kitchen… it all felt so real," Roy Hansen-Robitschek exclaims.
So much preparation was done by these schools in making the plays happen. St. Joseph's Joshua Flynn says, "We practiced for two months straight; about two hours or more a day… in the last two weeks (before the festival), we practiced for about a combined forty hours!"
All the preparation done by these schools were for shows which ran for about 45 minutes or less in length. "We ended up having to cut out a lot of our original play when we found out it could only be 45 minutes." Joshua Flynn shares.
"We put a lot of time and work in for such a short time…" Krista Howell ponders. "But we'd do it all over again in the blink of an eye," Jean Nicholas, Director of Harriot Curtis Collegiate's play interjects. "Before you do any performance of any length, you have to find kids who love drama; kids who have determination and focus… you have to build a cast that continually helps each other. There has to be a lot of togetherness before you can step on the stage for the final performance."
Photos from the festival:
Mr. Roy Hansen-Robitschek, the adjudicator for the Regional Drama Festival|
Roncalli student, Breannah Tulk getting her makeup done|
The cast of Harriott Curtis Collegiate (St. Anthony) who were selected to represent the region at the Provincial Drama Festival
The cast of St. Joseph's All Grade (Croque, NL)