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Wednesday, 03 December 2014 16:38

Students adapt famous Christmas tale for school’s fall production

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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One of the best known Christmas stories of all times have been adapted for a contemporary audience in an upcoming production by Swift Current Comprehensive High School drama students.

The students will be presenting a unique version of the Charles Dickens morality tale A Christmas Carol during the Swift Current Comprehensive High School Drama Department’s fall production from Dec. 11-14.
Director and dramatic arts teacher Stefan Rumpel said this production will be a first for the department.
“The main reason we wanted to go with A Christmas Carol is obviously because it’s a well-known story, but also because it has the really nice Christmas messages and we really haven’t done a Christmas show for families,” he mentioned.
“We try to do something new each year. So I thought it would be nice to do a Christmas piece and when I was thinking about some of the most well-known Christmas stories that one obviously was one that came up.”
Another first is that students have written their own adaptation of the story while still keeping true to the original tale.
“We’ve got the students together early,” he said. “We let them do some exploration with it and create some quick scenes with some twists to the story line. Then we had a group of about eight students write the play themselves.”
The production still tells the story of Scrooge, who hates Christmas time, and his encounters with three ghosts on Christmas Eve, but it comes to life on stage when a family gathers to read the book.
“Then each family member takes the story over at a different time and puts their own spin on it,” he said. “So the father turns it into a western for a quick moment and the son turns it into a musical at one point, but the mother is always kind of stealing the book back and making it the classic Victorian tale again.”
The production of a show by the school’s drama department has never been done in such an interactive process with the students.
“This would be the first time that we’ve done it as an extra-curricular program,” he said. “I want productions that the public will want to come see and know the names of, but at the same time each year I want to give the students a new challenge. So this year that challenge was to have them adapt something themselves.”
It is a large production that involves more than 75 students, including a crew of 20 to create the sets and over 45 actors.
“This year we had a lot of new young Grade 9 students join, probably one of our biggest years for that,” he said.
“So that was really exciting, and I think it was because of the process they got to be so heavily involved right off the bat and it’s a big undertaking.”
The large cast meant it has sometimes been quite a challenge during preparations and rehearsals to keep it all together.
“Some of the scenes where we have nearly everybody on stage are kind of crazy,” he laughed. “The kids have been really good about it though and when they’re needed they run up onto the stage for that part. Sometimes you have to remind them it’s your part, but otherwise it’s not too bad.”
The set for the production will present a typical Victorian streetscape while the costumes will be used to good effect to highlight interesting twists in the story.
“We’ve tried to go with something that gives the classic Victorian feel for the most of it,” he said about the set.
The role of Scrooge is performed by Grade 12 student Anthony Harder. Rumpel noted it was clear early on during auditions Harder will be a good fit in the role.
“He’s been in the program since Grade 9 and he is very good,” he said. “He was just very composed, very good at giving that air of authority at the same time as that slight disdain that Scrooge needs to really seem like an old meanie.”
The role of Scrooge’s nephew Fred is played by Keegan Browne, who recently was on stage at the Lyric Theatre in a musical drama about the history of the Cypress Hills.
“The thing about his role is he’s one of the ones who has to participate in the musical section,” Rumpel said. “So that always offers more of a challenge because he has to dance and sing.”
He believes audience members will be impressed by the performance of Grade 9 student Dawnella Rude in the role of the Ghost of Christmas Present.
“If you remember the role from many of those adaptations, it’s supposed to be that large booming man with the beard who fills the room,” he said. “It’s a pretty iconic role and here is a Grade 9 girl that we’re asking to do this role and she just has done a really great job of it.”
According to Rumpel she stood out during the casting process for the different roles.
“Her voice filled the entire space and she just has a very commanding presence,” he said. “She is a very good actor ... You could tell she has no fear when tackling the roles that she was trying to do.”
The school’s production of A Christmas Carol will be on stage from Dec. 11-14. The shows on Dec. 11, 12 and 13 will start at 7 p.m. and doors will open at 6:30 p.m. In addition to a 7 p.m. show on Dec. 14 there will be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. with doors opening at 1:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at Pharmasave in Swift Current at $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults.

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