The curtain will rise Thursday at Assumption College School in Brantford as Grade 11 drama students stage a murder-mystery.
After persevering through virtual rehearsals during the extended Christmas break, the young actors were able to rehearse on stage once in-person learning resumed on Jan. 17.
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“It gives them the opportunity to get a taste of what a show would be like, to do from beginning to end,” drama teacher Naomi Ratelband said of the production that, as the course’s culminating activity, determines the bulk of the students’ marks.
“We can do this show because it’s part of a cohort. When the course is done I can’t call them back.”
The presentation is called Encore: The Sixth Act. It is written by Ratelband’s fellow Cayuga Secondary School graduates Jeremy Lalonde and Heather Turnbull, who now work in the theatre and film industry.
“It’s a comedy, and a play within a play at the start,” Ratelband said. “One of the lead actors ends up dying on stage and people don’t know why he didn’t come out for the bows. There’s a lot of slapstick comedy where they make the body look like it’s come to life at one point.”
Ratelband said the production has all the classic murder-mystery components, with a sheriff and deputy who try to determine how the character could have died.
Encore was written for a cast of 20 actors, but Ratelband’s class has 28 students.
“Thankfully, I know the playwrights and asked if I could create characters.”
Sixteen-year-old Lia Woods is in her second year of drama class after “really loving it” the first year.
“I really like all the people,” she said. “We’re all supporting each other and it’s like a comfort space. You can be yourself, go on stage and everyone supports you.”
Woods said acting is something she’s done since elementary school.
“She has a couple of funny parts in there, and some parts are important,” Woods said of her portrayal of the character Kit.
Lucas Kersey, 16, has been taking drama classes at ACS since Grade 9.
“Acting is fun,” said Kersey, who consider himself a “half-decent actor.”
Kersey portrays Oliver, a character who wants to be an actor, but isn’t very good.
“To be a bad actor and do a Shakespearean accent is pretty difficult, but I think I’ve got it,” he said. “He’s a goofy character so it was easy to play. If I mess up a line, it looks like Oliver messed up.”
After learning lines and rehearsing virtually, Kersey said he’s glad schools re-opened for in-person learning last week.
“We’ve been running it through a few times, blocking it, lighting it, getting all that stuff worked out. It’s a lot easier and works so much better when in person.”
For 16-year-old Connor Cabral, taking part in Encore is a warm-up for his role as Uncle Fester in the school’s musical production of The Addams Family, to be staged in April.
“(In Encore) I play Shakespeare. He’s very full of himself,” Cabral notes. “I get to do a British accent for the entire time, so that’s kind of fun.”
The performance of Encore was originally to be a dinner theatre. But pandemic restrictions mean the performance will be done in the school’s auditorium where social distancing will allow for three other drama classes to take in the show.
Cast members will be masked except during their speaking parts.
The performance will be filmed and made available later for anyone who wants to view it.
“There’s a lot of students that want to pursue acting as a career, or something in the theatre, whether it’s directing, or film,” Ratelband observed.
“Even to be masked on stage, at least they will have the camaraderie of being next to one another. They all seem to fit their roles. They are very funny, dedicated people.”