While most R.D. Parker Collegiate students were confined to the classroom for their exams, pupils of the drama program were able to finalize their marks in front of a live audience.
This special examination took the form of a theatrical double-bill at the Letkemann Theatre June 22, where members of the Grade 10 and Grade 11 drama programs put on two shows back-to-back.
These productions didn’t pull material from the works of William Shakespeare or classic Broadway theatre. Instead, the students came up with their own original stories that borrowed heavily from modern popular culture.
First up was the Grade 10 production titled The Emerald Games, which tells the story of a distant future where characters from different film and television franchises, including Harry Potter, The Office and Scott Pilgrim, fight to the death in a Hunger Games-style tournament.
The second play, Super Retired, featured a similarly self-referential narrative. It follows a group of elderly super heroes and villains who are tasked with solving a murder mystery inside of their retirement home.
When it came to writing these two plays, RDPC drama teacher Demaris Wilson said she only provided her students with a loose premise. The rest of the narrative gaps were filled in by the students themselves, who collectively wrote the scripts through methods such as group chat and Google Docs.
“By writing their our own script it allows us to customize a role for each individual and it also allows us to have the kids invested more,” said Wilson. “Because as soon as they’re the ones who are creating the ideas, there’s a whole new level of commitment that comes to it.”
Some of the students even pulled from their own experiences in writing the script, as is the case with the Grade 11 students who performed in Super Retired.
“They knew right away that they wanted to do something with old people,” said Wilson. “We also have an improv club at the school and we recently went down to Winnipeg in March and competed, for our first time, in the Canadian Improv Games, so a few of them have personas that they go back to.”
The students’ commitment was really put to the test during the production of these two plays, since Wilson said they were only given three weeks to put everything together.
“To write two original scripts with two different casts and everything was quite an undertaking,” she said. “Both classes, on top of their regular course work, had six other school rehearsals that they came to. The commitment level was awesome and the kids really put their heart and souls into both of these shows.”
Even though this isn’t the first time RDPC drama students have produced and performed in a play as part of their final exams, Wilson hopes that their unique approach to production will carry over into the next school year.
“There’s been talks with my Grade 11s, who will be in Grade 12 next year, of starting sooner in the year (with their) writing, so that we can produce a full production that would be a 40-minute to an hour-long show. So that’s exciting.”