The process of bringing a stage production to life can be a daunting task, but for Swift Current Comprehensive High School (SCCHS) students it has been a real opportunity to explore their creativity.
SCCHS Drama students have taken the lead in the fall production of Clue, a theatrical adaptation of the 1985 film and popular board game.
“This is arguably the most student driven we've ever been,” Dramatic Arts Teacher Stefan Rumpel said. “Whether it's costumes, direction or acting, there's so much that they're in charge of, and it's been good. I think there's been a learning experience for the kids about how to still maintain those relationships with your peers as you're in a high-pressure situation where you're making big decisions about something that's important to you, and I think that's good. I think they'll come out of it more mature and better equipped for that sort of situations later in life.”
This whodunit comedy is co-directed by Grade 12 students Laticia Beaulieu, Keegon Guenther, and Nabil Zanidean.
“It's a very comedic play,” Beaulieu said. “In every single scene there's something funny going on. It's very entertaining. There's chaos, it's exciting, there's bright colours and you really enter a Clue universe when you come to watch it. It's funny, it's very enjoyable, that's why we picked it in the first place.”
The three of them really wanted to make sure there will be a fall production in their Grade 12 year, and they therefore pitched the idea to Principal Larry Kielo.
“I gave essentially full control to them,” Rumpel said. “I wanted to take some time for myself and step back, and I knew I had three students who were very trustworthy and very hardworking and they pitched it to Mr. Kielo to let them run it themselves with different teachers jumping in and helping, and I've just been assisting a little bit where I can with some of the logistics of running a production.”
It has not always been easy for Rumpel to watch from the sidelines while the students were working on the production.
“It's very hard,” he said. “It's one of the reasons why I haven't been at many rehearsals. I come periodically a little bit, because I know if I am there more, I'm not going to be able to stop myself from getting into the director's seat and that's not what it's about. It's about their opportunity to do it. So I've kind of kept an arms length away so that I don't end up hijacking their production.”
The SCCHS Drama Club is an important extracurricular activity for students involved with it, and for the three co-directors it was therefore an important motivation to go ahead with a fall production.
“It's home for a lot of people,” Zanidean said. “It's like a family here, and I knew if we lost that, a lot of people would be really upset, and I just wanted it to happen. So the three of us had to step up and get this thing rolling or else it would not have happened.”
He relished the opportunity to direct a production after previously acting in several plays, including Cinderella and The Sound of Music.
“It is stressful at times, but when you go in there and you see that final play and you sit either backstage or in the audience and you watch what you've created or helped create, it's really satisfying and really gratifying,” he said. “If you get a chance to direct a play, do it. You'll get a lot of really important life experience and leadership experience as well.”
The move from the stage as an actor to the director’s chair gave him a new perspective on the process of creating a production.
“You're up on stage and the directors will pause it, and you're not doing anything for 10 minutes, just standing there,” he said. “As an actor it can be annoying, but then you step down and as a director you pause them and there's so many little details to work out and you resume and it's 20 minutes later. You get an appreciation for how much work either side is putting in, since you've done both.”
Guenther has only been a member of the Drama Club since last year, but it has been a lot of fun and he acted in the spring drama production Yellow Wallpaper.
“I remember last year, after a long stressful day of school, it's really nice to be able to do something like this where you feel like you're working up to something really big and something really important,” he said. “You get to hang out with people and get to make new friends and all that, which I really enjoyed. I've always been interested in film and I always wanted to try to direct something like this and have that feeling that this is our creation and we made this work out.”
According to Beaulieu the biggest challenge for the three directors have been the process of directing their peers. It is not always easy to give instructions to fellow students, but their roles as co-directors required that they took on that responsibility.
“It's a little bit difficult when you're telling a friend what to do, but also having that relationship, because we really want drama to be a family and a safe place for everybody,” she said.
Their approach has been to be firm in giving directions, but doing it in a friendly way and without favouring anyone.
“It's acting as if we are above in ways when we're telling them what to do, but when we're with them, it's the same,” she said. “We're still family, we're still together in that sense.”
There are about 20 actors in the production, which is fewer than usual, but it is a good size. The sets are an important part of this production and they had to creative to make it work on a smaller stage.
“This play is huge on set and props,” she said. “It was originally written to be on a Broadway stage, so huge and enough room. There are about eight or nine rooms that we have to have on the stage. It's difficult getting them all on there, and having all the props there, and because it's a murder mystery, it's hugely based on those stuff. So getting all the little details and getting everything to look good in general was difficult, but I think we made it happen pretty good.”
For Rumpel it is great to see how students are applying their knowledge and skills from their involvement with SCCHS Drama in previous years.
“You're pretty proud to see that they've picked up a lot of what you have been trying to do,” he said. “It's exciting for us to see the students showcase their learning over the past so many years and for some of the new students they get to learn from a peer instead of an adult, which can just be a different way of learning, it's just a different experience, which I think can also be beneficial.”
While a student-led drama production will not happen every year, it is a great opportunity to let it happen at the right moment.
“You have to wait for the right group of kids who are really organized and hardworking and dedicated and if you have that group, you make it happen,” he said.
There will be five performances of Clue, including a midnight special on Dec. 6 with desserts and board games. Doors will open at 10:45 p.m. and tickets for this performance are $25 each.
The ticket prizes for all the other performances are $15 each. There will be evening performances on Dec. 4, 5 and 7. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the performance starts at 7 p.m. There will be a matinee on Dec. 7, when doors open at 12:30 p.m. and the performance starts at 1 p.m.