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Wednesday, 20 March 2013 08:19

Cardston students bring The Little Mermaid to the stage

Written by  Westwind School Division
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Ariel’s mermaid sisters take to song and dance in Cardston Junior High School’s production of The Little Mermaid. Ariel’s mermaid sisters take to song and dance in Cardston Junior High School’s production of The Little Mermaid. Photo submitted by Westwind School Division

They rehearsed their lines and memorized backstage directions, but students learned much more in putting on Cardston Junior High School’s annual dramatic production.

Almost 40 Grade 7 and 8 drama students at the Westwind school — not to mention school staff and parent volunteers — transformed the Carriage House Theatre in Cardston to an underwater delight for a three-night run of The Little Mermaid.
There are numerous benefits for those students taking part in drama, says Rachelle Sugden, an educational aassistant at CJHS and director of the production.
“One little thing I always harp on is this quote: ‘the heart of theatre is discipline and theatre discipline is self-discipline’,” she says. “To me, if the kids walk away from this learning a little self-discipline, that is something that will carry through the rest of their lives.”
All students had to audition for a part in the musical version of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale and rehearsals began in September during each day’s drama class. There were also many lunch hours missed and time after school given up as the big date nears.
With that significant commitment comes a corresponding pay-off, says Sugden, in the form of a boost to students’ self-esteem.
“Some of these kids have never stood in front of 15 people, let alone a theatre full of 300 people, and put themselves out there to be judged,” she says. “Suddenly they have the confidence to tackle all kinds of difficult challenges in their lives.”
People talk about the benefits of team sports, but Sugden points out in theatre, nobody sits on the bench, everyone contributes and success is contingent upon every single contribution.
Sugden has been helping with the CJHS drama production for the past seven years. Each year, she chooses a production based upon the strengths of that year’s drama students, and looks for something with a positive message.
“With The Little Mermaid, it’s about finding out who you are and standing up for yourself ... that we have a lot of strong, confident women around us, and we need to listen to them. It’s also a show about family and standing up against adversity,” says Sugden.
The Little Mermaid marked the 30th anniversary of annual drama productions at CJHS.
To celebrate the occasion, each night’s performance opened with a slide show of images from past productions ranging from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown in 1984, to last year’s Music Man.
Sugden, who’s been involved in the local theatre scene for about the same length of time, says the CJHS production has gained a real following in the community over the years.
During that time, many of the students have gone on to perform in other local productions and some even to theatre studies at university. It’s not about training future actors and actresses, however, but providing another opportunity for students to shine and also to express themselves.
“Any kind of system without a strong base in the arts is really missing the boat. This is what we are as human beings; this is how we express ourselves; this is how we communicate with each other. The sooner we can get kids to express themselves through the arts, the more well rounded they become,” says Sugden.
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