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Students get in on the act to direct
Four W.L. Seaton Secondary students are exploring their inner Mike Nichols and Phyllida Lloyd by learning what it’s like to direct for the stage.
And as they will tell you, it ain’t easy, but it’s worth every movement, quizzical eye and question from their fellow student cast and crew. There is plenty of that going around as the students get ready to stage their respective one-acts.
Not only are the student directors, all in Grade 12, giving directions from the proverbial director’s chair, with help from their producer, drama teacher Lana O’Brien, they are the ones who chose the scripts to stage.
From an artist seeking a masterpiece, to an actor’s worst nightmare, to an unsung tragedy, to the antics of high schoolers trying to survive, this year’s plays offer a spectrum of topics, and in one case, colours.
“It’s been crazy to squeeze time in for rehearsals,” said Sheldon Graham, who should know, as he starred as the lead in Seaton’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last year. This time he is directing Masterpiece, written by Nathan Metcalf.
“Mine is the last play to be shown of the four, so it’s been hard to find a one-act that ties up the loose ends of the story,” he said.
“The plays are all different from each other,” added Justin Kopy, who appeared as the Pharaoh in Joseph and has been in a number of plays at Powerhouse Theatre.
He’s directing Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare.
“I looked a long time online for mine and discovered it when I looked through Powerhouse’s records. It was staged there a few years ago and I thought it would be powerful to do,” he said.
The play is about an actor who wakes up from a nightmare to find he is on the stage and is forced to act in four separate plays. Problem is he doesn’t know his lines, or whether he is still dreaming.
Masterpiece also plays on reality. It is about a female artist who goes on a journey to find her masterpiece.
“Each character is a colour... It’s very real and surreal in some aspects,” said Graham, who initially set off to direct a comedy.
“I found something completely different that to me was not expected. It’s voyaging into this new world of directing and ideas.”
Michelle Shaver’s chosen play fills in that comedic role. Her’s is the funny, satirical and descriptively titled, How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying, by Jonathan Rand.
“The title stood out to me. It’s fun, vibrant and very funny,” said Shaver.
The play follows three seniors who are doing a presentation on, what else, how to succeed in high school... Meanwhile, Shaver is learning how to micro-manage a big cast.
“We have the help of several other high school students who are acting out the points,” she said.
Fellow director Emma Dorval is helming Tuna Fish Eulogy by Canadian playwright Lindsay Price.
The play follows a dead boy who gathers his mother, baby-sitter and grandmother to talk about his death, while another actor mediates, playing numerous roles.
“It is more along a tragedy with surreal lines,” said Dorval, who is a singer as well as a musician.
She was drawn to the script as it is formatted like a piece of music.
“It is written in four columns and the actors speak their lines on top of each other, much like music does. It’s especially tough because if one screws up, then everyone screws up,” she said. “I was also drawn to it because I am fond of Canadian compositions.”
Assisting with the production as stage manager and assistant producer is Emily Burke, who is in the school’s theatre department as a full-time student.
Burke is interested in pursuing a career as a TV floor manager, a person who ensures that sets, props and technical equipment are safe, ready to use and in the right position prior to filming, and is getting experience by helping out in the theatre, said O’Brien.
All four one-acts will be shown one after the other at Seaton’s 27th Street Theatre from Wednesday Jan. 15 to Saturday, Jan. 18. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. All tickets are $10 and can be reserved by calling the school’s office at 250-542-3361.