By Tanya Thibodeau
Cast and crew have been busy putting together the final touches for this year’s spring production – Shrek the Musical. I had the opportunity to hang around for a bit during their weekend dress rehearsal and boy are these kids characters, especially when in character.
Chatting with Jasmine Sousa, recently moved here from Regina, I learned that she actually plays several roles throughout the play including: Fiona (both ogre and non-ogre version), Mama Bear, Mama Ogre and Gingy due to the triple-casting approach that drama teacher Sherry Schalm has taken this year, which gives the students more involvement and more variety throughout the production while also ensuring that all parts are well covered.
Sousa indicated that she enjoys playing the non-ogre Fiona the best and aside from the bonus of no green paint, she likes that the character is a real girl, elegant and dresses fancy. She finds the character to have a natural, realistic moodiness to her, a touch of flamboyancy, she really wears her heart on her sleeve and is just out there – all characteristics that Sousa can relate to creating a sense of connection with the character.
Emma-lee Anderson, who also plays both versions of Fiona, concurred with Sousa adding that Fiona is energetic and a bit sassy which strengthens the connection she feels with the character.
The general feeling among the young actors is that there is a strong level of chemistry and connection between cast members, they all have strengths in improvisation which makes rolling off each other while on stage fun, smooth and natural. Which I witnessed first hand simply watching a portion of the dress-rehearsal.
When speaking with Colby Willis about his role as Shrek in the production, it was clear that he was a perfect fit for the part. Aside from his ability to get into character on stage, Willis has an engaging character off-stage. When asked what he liked about the character Shrek, there was little hesitation in the responses of “He’s Shrektastic… Scottish… and I get to do an accent.” Not to mention the clearly obvious similarities between Willis and Shrek of “Tall, big, hulky… and I have layers.”
Austin Caron wasn’t shy about embracing his primary role of Lord Farquaad, while he also plays a Guard and Pinocchio, he enjoys the character Lord Farquaad the most. When asked why, “Because he’s awesome – and I’m awesome.” I do believe that Caron is one of the few able to pull off a statement like that with just the right intonation and feeling as to make one believe it and not feel that it comes from a place of arrogance. But aside from the awesomeness, Caron truly enjoys playing a villain because he feels that you are able to do (and get away with) a fair bit more with a villainous character.
Another general consensus among the students was that they all enjoy drama for what it gives to them on a personal level. There is little doubt among any of them that drama has significantly helped with their confidence, their willingness to put themselves “out there”, their public speaking and getting to know themselves – who they really are. While possibly not a big surprise, many of them are individuals who enjoy being in the spotlight and the attention they get. Yet it would also appear that there are few from this group who feel that they will be pursuing acting outside of high school, with the exception of perhaps Willis who indicated that he might consider some community theatre.
Schalm’s pride and enjoyment in leading this group of 22 students is obvious with her dedication and many extra hours put in to help bring it all together. You can clearly see by her interactions with the students that she has a genuine appreciation for their individuality and personalities.
Schalm chose Shrek the Musical for this year’s production as she “felt it would be a good fit for our school”. Schalm explained that “It’s about a collection of individuals (essentially misfits) that find a champion who gives them strength in themselves and by the end of the show they believe in the themselves without needing someone to give them validation” – a terrific message for any group of high school kids.
While all of the grade 10, 11 and 12 enrolled drama students participate in the production in one way or another, Schalm still takes the kids through the audition process for the learning and experience it provides them. Considering the limited amount of time available for the cast and crew to practice and rehearse, it’s pretty impressive what they manage to put together. This production isn’t like some high school productions where it’s an extra-curricular activity with more of a volunteer foundation. At Oilfields High School, the production is put together in its entirety during class times, with this one Saturday dress rehearsal being the only out of class time that the students participate in.
However, there was no question at this dress rehearsal, that despite being a Saturday, an early start and a wee bit hot in the drama room, this group of students certainly have the energy and enjoy what they’re doing.
If you’re able to attend and would enjoy an afternoon or evening of entertainment and for certain some laughs, consider one of the upcoming performances.