Small town residents Reed and Dusty, played by drama students Niya Irving and Cole Simpson, contemplate what brought them to a condemned park and what is keeping them there in the Dover Bay Secondary School production of ‘Bethel Park Falls.’ (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

High school drama students present outdoor performance at Nanaimo’s Dover Bay

Production to be staged in school courtyard with in-person audience

Dover Bay Secondary School drama students are staging their first in-person production since 2019.

From June 17 to 22 the school’s Bay Theatrix production company presents Bethel Park Falls, a recent play by American playwright Jason Pizzarello. The story follows the interconnected lives of 16 small-town residents as they learn that their local park is being sold. The play will be staged behind the school for an in-person audience. If the province begins Step 2 of its re-start plan at its earliest date on June 15, 50 people will be allowed to attend the production. If not, only 10 will be permitted.

Drama teacher Alex Brennan said he’s been spending the pandemic looking for plays to stage outdoors before finally “stumbling” on Bethel Park Falls. He said the play has many themes that people living through a pandemic will find relatable.

“The issues that they’re all dealing with – loss, forgiveness, isolation – are all the themes that everybody has been encountering in our everyday lives throughout this past year and a bit,” he said. “It was a no-brainer once I did find it but it did take me a while.”

For Brennan this will be his first outdoor production since his days performing twice-daily music revues as part of a theatre troupe at Port Alberni’s McLean Mill National Historic Site 15 years ago. This will be his first time directing an outdoor show and he said there are some challenges when it comes to performing among the elements, such as rehearsals being cut short due to rain.

“When you’re on the stage you have complete control over basically everything, but outdoors we’re fighting traffic, we’re fighting birds and bees, any kind of critters that are hanging around,” Brennan said.

Despite those difficulties, Brennan said performing outside also presents a unique set of benefits, especially for a play that takes place in a park.

“It’s essentially the perfect set without having to create anything, so that has been nice,” he said. “And [in] a lot of ways it feels more natural because you are outside in the elements trying to keep it genuine and authentic. And when you’re in the park and they’re talking about being in a park, it all makes sense and you get lost in the story.”

WHAT’S ON … Bay Theatrix presents Bethel Park Falls at Dover Bay Secondary School, 6135 McGirr Rd., on June 17, 18, 21 and 22 at 6 p.m. Tickets $10, available at the door or in advance by e-mailing Alex.Brennan@sd68.bc.ca.

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