Saturday, March 5, 2011

Home Grown Theatre, BCI's "Cirque"

I am a great supporter of local theatre and local talent and I am particularly impressed if that local theatre and local talent is performing material written by local people. That just makes it completely homegrown for me.

I am also an advocate for students who display an artistic bent, show initiative and are willing to showcase their talents, and hone their craft as youth.

I have had the privilege of watching two such performances at my daughter's high school in the last couple of months.

The first, a play called High Hopes was written by a Grade 12 student as an ISP project for her Music credit. A Grade 11 lad wrote six original songs for the short musical. There were just two main characters on stage in this quality performance, done in January.

Last night my family went to see the play Cirque, a play written by a Grade 12 girl, music written and conducted by a Grade 12 lad. The entire production was directed by another Grade 12 student. All the performers were Grade 9-11 students. The play which ran for two, forty-five minute acts, was most enjoyable, and extremely well written and maturely handled for such a young ensemble.

The following is a newspaper coverage account leading up to the production:

 Pulling off an amazing feat


At Brockville Collegiate Institute, students know all about a key rule of theatre: The show must go on.

Following the retirement last year of highly regarded teacher Lisa Leroux, who played a key role in the school's annual theatrical productions, BCI was not expected to even put on a school play this year, said Grade 12 student Rylan Schwarze.

But Schwarze and a group of passionate students decided to step up and fix that problem. Schwarze, 17, first suggested a magic show, but fellow student Sophia Smyth ran with the idea.

The result is Cirque, an entirely student-generated musical that runs at the school's auditorium next week. Smyth wrote most of the play, said Schwarze, adding he edited the script and added a few bits. Schwarze is the show's director and producer.

The story is set in France, immediately after the Second World War, and at its heart is a classic love story. "It's about a boy who falls in love with a girl, but she is high class and he is low class."

The girl's mother splits up the pair by sending the boy off to the circus, where he grows into a star performer, but eventually goes back to try to win over his love interest, said Schwarze.

The production includes music by Joshua Feltmate, who is also music director and head of the pit band, and choreography by Kristen Tackaberry, who also dances in the play.

The cast of 17, all students from Grades 9 to 11, includes Kelly Strange as the boy, Laurent ; Emily Mayo as his love interest, Elodie; and Jocelyn MacNeil as the mother, Louise. It also includes Harrison Beattie as the villain, Claude.

Putting the production together is a stressful experience, Schwarze acknowledged, but he is encouraged by what he sees.  "It's coming all together. Everyone is really working hard with this," he said.

It was difficult at first, but the group has really meshed together, said MacNeil, 16, who has performed in a number of shows at BCI and with the Brockville Operatic Society.

"In the end, we were really able to pull together and work as a team and bond as a family," she said.

Although he is not a stranger to school theatre, Strange, 16, is adapting to a new culture, having moved here from Foley, Alabama nearly a year ago.

"It's been torturous at some times and kind of fun at some times," Strange said of the student- run play.

Cirque runs Thursday, March 3 through Saturday, March 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students, seniors and children, and $8 for adults. They are available at the school's main office or at the door.

I highly applaud the pluck, determination and talent that these young people have displayed.  Kudos to you guys!

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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