The Theatre Arts 20 course is designed to educate students on technical aspects of the theatre. Those enrolled in the program are building sets for the play based on miniature models.
“We’re actually almost done,” Grade 11 student Nicole Matheis said. “We just have to finish up some painting and then we’re practically set, because actually in the small model, half an inch equals a foot, and so we can build it exactly to scale, exactly what the model is. We could take a picture of the model and … a picture of the set and it’ll be the exact same, except bigger.”
The students will present Snow White at local elementary schools from mid-November to mid-December. A public performance will take place at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Dec. 1 and 2 at 2 p.m.
Theatre Arts 20 is partly the brainchild of teacher David Zulkoskey and serves as a precursor to the more advanced Theatre Arts 30 program (where students are working on a different play). Zulkoskey was hired by the provincial government to write activities for the course curriculum more than two decades ago.
“Theatre Arts 20 is an introduction to technical theatre,” he said. “That’s why for the set design, I have designed the set and then (the students are) building from that, whereas in Theatre Arts 30, I teach them about design … We had about five designs submitted in the class, and then my job as the teacher was to facilitate a discussion. We then chose a set design from those five and we tweaked it so that … we ended up taking elements from each person’s design, because they were of such good quality and together they create very much a unified whole.”
Set building is only the first part of the class and is followed by lessons on makeup and costumes.
Zulkoskey’s courses are designed to allow students to express themselves, teaching problem-solving skills and teamwork as well as useful handicrafts such as carpentry.
We actually get a way to express our creativity, our own design in theatre. - Jacob Arnason
“In lots of classes, you don’t get teamwork … and you’re not working with other people,” Grade 12 student Jena Mailloux said. “But in this class, you really have to work with other people (and) connect with other people to be able to make the set believable. So I think that’s a really important thing that we’ve learned so far in the class.”
Another aspect of the course is teaching students how to construct sets inexpensively. The drama classroom is located near the school dumpster and often people taking out scrap material will first ask theatre students if they might have any use for it. In order for students to easily transport materials around town, sets are also constructed with portability in mind.
Theatre Arts students are encouraged to think outside the box and offer their own solutions. For Snow White’s magic mirror, students came up with the idea of stretching spandex over a frame, allowing a person to put their face against the material and create a three-dimensional “reflection.”
Although the workload can be hefty, Zulkoskey’s classes have received rave reviews from students
“We actually get a way to express our creativity, our own design in theatre,” Theatre Arts 30 student Jacob Arnason said. “We get to put our ideas on something that someone actually cares about. Most of the times we’re in classes that have no windows in the middle of the school. It smells. It’s ugly.
“In here there’s inspiration. It’s freedom. I look forward to it every day … I look forward to class more than I look forward to my noon hour breaktime.”