For the past couple of years, members of the R.D. Parker Collegiate drama program have put together a series of plays instead of writing a traditional exam.
While their 2018 production is scheduled to take place June 29 at the Letkemann Theatre, RDPC drama teacher Demaris Wilson said her Grade 12 students are in for a bit of a challenge, since they are making the jump from comedy to drama.
“They had really only experienced comedic acting with the directors before me. They did a lot of parodies and satires and soap operas and things like that,” she said. “[This year] we talked about the idea of pushing outside of their comfort zone and seeing how it felt to do something other than a comedy.”
Throughout the school year, Wilson and her students eventually came up with the plot for Fixed in the Stars, an original story that follows the trials and tribulations of a Canadian family during the Second World War.
Despite only having a limited space to work with, these Grade 12 students aim to cover a lot of ground in around 80 minutes, taking the audience from the home front all the way to the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Not only is this production much longer than their previous performance exams, but Wilson revealed that her students will be tasked with conveying much heavier subject matter than they are used to, such as post-traumatic stress, gender inequality and depression.
In fact, Wilson said this year’s entire drama program was structured around studying specific acting and writing techniques that would help do this kind of material justice.
“They sat down and decided we’re going to spend this many weeks on monologues, this many weeks on dramatic scene studies and leave a nice chunk for us to write a script and produce a longer dramatic play.”
Part of this process also involved doing copious amounts of research into the conflict itself.
By becoming more familiar with events like the Conscription Crisis of 1944 and the fundamental differences between American and Canadian soldiers, Wilson said her students will be able to create a much more dynamic on-stage performances.
“They’ve looked into so many different things that has really enriched their understanding of this time period and making sure that they’re doing it justice and portraying it correctly,” she said. “That’s really awesome and … helps it come to life on stage.”
Even though some of her students are having trouble grasping this new material, Wilson told the Thompson Citizen that they are more than willing to step up to the challenge and show the community what they are capable of.
“They were super excited last time to make people laugh, but there’s a maturity with this group that I see and they want to be able to move the audience,” said Wilson. “So they’re taking it a little bit more seriously than they did last year.”
Fixed in the Stars is set to première, for one night only, at the Letkemann Theatre on Friday, June 29. Doors open around 6:30 p.m. and admission is $2 per person.
All of the proceeds will be donated to a veterans’ charity.