Production values have typically been threadbare, with students scrounging for costumes and material wherever they can find them. But this year is different.
Since the school received an $8,000 ArtsSmarts grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board near the end of February, the possibilities for this student production have increased dramatically.
“We were able to acquire the services of two professional artists,” principal Suzanne Quiring said. “One is a dance artist and one is a costume (artist).
“Also, it allows us to perform at the Rawlinson Centre, and it gives us the funds to purchase the necessary stuff, like all of the costuming … Rather than go to Value Village and try to piece things together, we’re able to make costumes that will be able to be used from one year to the next.”
She added, “Just by the fact that we were able to have the artists come and help us with writing the storyboards and planning the whole thing. I think it’s going to be much more professional.”
Prince Albert residents will be able to judge the enhanced black light performance for themselves when the students offer a public presentation at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday, March 27.
Led by Grade 7 and 8 teacher Patty Herriot -- guiding light behind the annual black light performance since its inception -- this year’s class will focus on telling traditional native stories.
“What they’ve done is they have written some script and designed some stuff around aboriginal myths and legends,” Quiring said.
In previous years, the nature of each performance was shaped in part by Herriot’s limited production budget.
“She’s always done it on a shoestring, with the kids scrounging for costumes and they’re just scrambling … to do things on the least possible money,” Quiring said.
“This year we decided that because it is such a good performance -- the kids … script, they choreograph, they make their own costumes, they do everything from scratch under the direction of their teacher, but bottom line (is that) the kids do it all -- this year, with the Saskatchewan Arts Board offering grants, we put in an application for a grant and we did receive it.”
Just by the fact that we were able to have the artists come and help us with writing the storyboards and planning the whole thing. I think it’s going to be much more professional. - Suzanne Quiring
To obtain the grant, the school had to demonstrate how their project tied in with the Ministry of Education curriculum in terms of areas such as language, career education, practical and applied arts and social studies.
Still, the students were taken aback when they discovered the Sask Arts Board had awarded them the ArtSmarts grant.
“They were pretty excited,” Quiring said. “We never, ever thought that we would have that.
“When they heard about it, the teacher (Herriot) was just overwhelmed, first of all, because traditionally, she’s done this wonderful performance with about two, three hundred dollars, and being able to have professionals come in to advise and to help, it’s been a huge learning curve for everybody.”
The professionals in question are Gillian McCaffery, a trained dancer from Broadway North who has assisted the students with storyboarding and choreography, and Heather Thorleifson, a supporting artist who has provided guidance and direction for the students in designing costumes, sets and props.
While not officially part of the grant, Rawlinson Centre stage and lighting manager Ryan Spracklin has also offered his assistance to the production.
Having theatrical professionals around to help has been an eye-opener for the students.
“It’s just provided that opportunity to make things much more professional and give the students a glimpse of … what is involved in performing and putting on a performance for the public at this level,” Quiring said.
The students are set to take the Rawlinson Centre stage for their public black light performance at 7 p.m. following an afternoon performance for fellow students.
Tickets for the show are $10 for adults and $5 for students and are available at the door or by calling Spruce Home School at 764-8377.