Carlton drama company hopes to repeat stage triumph

Jason Kerr
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It’s going to be tough to duplicate what they did last year, but Carlton Comprehensive High School’s Mad Hatter Theatre Company is going to try.

Devynn Boyer (left) and Sarah Tweidt (right) portray Owen Pendragon and Jane Griffith in Carlton Comprehensive High School’s Mad Hatter Theatre Company production of Glamorgan

The student group, led by drama teacher David Zulkoskey, is heading to Saskatoon for the annual Saskatchewan Drama Association Region 11 One Act Festival.  Last year the company picked up 11 awards, including the coveted Best Play prize.

“I think everyone’s a little more nervous because we won a lot last year,” lead actor Devynn Boyer says.  “We kind of want to keep it up this year, and for a lot of people it’s their last year, so they really want to make it to the next level.”

After performing the Civil War era play Green Man last year, the group decided to tackle Glamorgan, both of which were written by American playwright Don Nigro.

“Young people are always interested in stories of romance and it is a story of romance, but it’s got that gothic dark romantic twist that I think a lot of kids are also interested in,” Zulkoskey says.

Glamorgan is one of a series of plays chronicling the history of several generations of American families.  It’s a tragic, but poetic play, which created plenty of challenges for the student company.

“It’s very very descriptive in the way that it’s been written, in the style that its been written by the playwright,” set designer and stage manager Malissa Paul says.  “In designing the set, I found the script very helpful as a tool to see what it was that the playwright might of had in mind.”

In addition to the acting and directing, the students also designed their own sets and make-up and created their own costumes with the help of a local sewing expert.  The festival awards students for costume and set design as well as acting, so it’s an aspect they take quite seriously.

“Everything is original,” Zulkoskey says.  “We’re not going into a book and saying let’s just copy that.  Every student in some capacity has shown their creativity.”

Last year was the company’s first-ever win at the Region 11 festival, which features schools from Saskatoon and the surrounding area.  The winner of Best Play represents the region at the Saskatchewan Drama Association Provincial Festival in May.

“It’s a really big buildup of nerves before I go on, especially seeing other plays,” lead actress Sarah Tweidt says.  “You get nervous about your character if you mess up a line or something, but it’s that buildup that makes it worth so much more.  When you get on stage it’s really amazing, just that feeling of performing.”

“It’s really intimidating,” Boyer agrees.  “You don’t know exactly what the (judge) is going to like.”

It’s not just nerve wracking for the cast.  The crew also has some anxious moments.

“We worry about how they’re going to react to different things that go a little bit wrong or a little bit off course,” Paul says.  “At the same time we have to be the ones that are confident in them and that are not quite as nervous so we can help calm their nerves.”

To prepare for the competition, the Mad Hatters are staging a performance on April 8 at Carlton.  The performance starts at 7:30 and admission is $5.

Zulkoskey says it will be a unique experience because the play has to be performed in one hour.  That includes set-up and take down time as well, so audiences will get a chance to watch the stage crew at work.

The performance also includes two short music pieces composed by student-director Nicole Matheis.

“The level of creativity, it’s not just the actors, it’s woven throughout the whole group,” Zulkoskey says.

This will also be the last year of competition for the graduating actors and crewmembers.  As a Grade 12 student, Tweidt says she’s sad to have to end her high school drama career, but is thankful for the experience.

“I love doing this and it being my last year, you just want to give it your all,” she says.  “It’s kind of sad that it’s coming to an end but I’ve really been blessed to be a part of this for three years.”

Regardless of whether they’ll be successful in defending their title, Zulkoskey says he’s pleased with the work he’s seen.  He says the impressed by the combination of commitment, talent and teamwork shown by the company.

“I’m incredibly proud to take this group on the road,” he says.  “Yes, awards are nice, but I think the awards we accomplish are the awards of coming together as a group.”

Organizations: Saskatchewan Drama Association Region

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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