Drama students at Port Colborne High School saw the different avenues they could pursue in the theatre when St. Catharines-based Essential Collective Theatre staged two performances at the school this week.
“Having them get a chance to see a professional company come in and see how they run things is a really neat thing for my students,” said Amy Converset, drama/dance teacher and Port High’s arts and culture department head.
When Converset found out the theatre group was touring The Welland Canal Play she offered up the theatre space inside the Elgin Street high school.
Earlier this week, students helped the theatre company set up the stage for the two performances Tuesday, a matinee for elementary and high school students and an evening performance for the public.
“They saw all of the different things that need to happen to put a show together,” said Converset.
Students were ushers and tickets sellers, saw how the stage manager and property mistress worked, watched graphics designs used to enhance the performance, and learned how a computer program could control the high school’s lighting system.
“It showed the different avenues they could follow … all of the things they could possibly do.”
Converset said the connection between the school and Essential Collective Theatre is “really good and positive.”
“Monica (Dufault, the play’s director, and theatre company’s artistic director) started a playwriting program for youth three years ago and one of my students took part in it. They went for six weeks in a row, writing a play and had it read by professional artists at Brock (University).”
Converset said another one of her students attended the same program last year and was hoping more would take part in it next semester.
Dufault said Essential Collective Theatre collaborated with Converset and the high school, the first stop in the play’s tour of Niagara, and Port High students helped with ticket sales and marketing, in addition to being ushers.
“A lot of the performers are fresh out of theatre school,” said Dufault, adding there were three graduates from George Brown’s Theatre School and one from the National Theatre School of Canada.
“It’s great for these high school students to see these young people who have just finished their training and are now working. They can be an example.”
Dufault said The Welland Canal Play is not just a story of the history of the Welland Canal, but a dramatic exploration of the people who dreamed of the canal and those that worked on it.
“It was written and created by Kevin Hobbs … we developed this piece as part of our Canada 150 project. It looks at how the canal affected the region, the people, immigration, economy and culture. That was our starting place, but the focus is on the story of the workers,” she said.