Carlton drama students win big at regionals

Jodi Schellenberg
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For the second year in a row the Mad Hatter Theatre Company (MHTC) has dominated at the Saskatchewan Drama Association regionals.

The Carlton students came away with 11 awards after competing at the regional competition in Saskatoon on Friday and Saturday.

MHTC performed a production of Glamorgan, a gothic horror and romance play written by Don Nigro, drama teacher and director David Zulkoskey said.

“It is set in the 18th century and it traces the linage of a family from the grandparents up to the birth of the small child who narrates the story,” he said. “It is a dark and twisted story, as all gothic stories are.”

Student Arnelle Gamble played one of the main characters, Mary Pendragon, the mother of the narrator.

“This is my first time actually performing on stage at regionals,” Gamble said. “The whole experience, I can’t describe it. It was just amazing. It is something I have never done before and completely different.”

In the past, Gamble has only performed in children’s plays, so this was a completely different experience, she said.

“Honestly, since I have never been on stage, I didn’t know what to expect,” Gamble said. “I was going in there completely new to everything. When we performed, afterwards I was on a high. I loved every aspect of going to regionals.”

There were many other jobs to be filled, such as makeup designer. Another student, Fiona Loseth, took on that challenge.

“I designed the concept and then I applied it but I also had someone else there to help me,” Loseth said.

At the beginning, the process didn’t seem as difficult as she thought it would be, Loseth said.

“I had to read the script and note in the script who does get makeup,” she said. “I had to envision what people would look like and then I would go over that with our directors. They would give me feedback on what they were envisioning.

“It wasn’t a lot of work at the beginning because it was mainly thinking of ideas,” she added.

The challenges started after the initial design process.

“When I first started practising it was a lot of work because I had never done any of the types of makeup I was doing,” Loseth said. “Last year for Greenman, I needed to do a bullet wound and then I needed to make someone look aged and wrinkled. In this one, I was burning an entire side of a face off, making it look burnt and making someone look dead, as if they just came out of the ground.”

She soon discovered there were more challenges she would be facing because some of the makeup changes had to be done during the play.

“There was more of a challenge this year because we couldn’t do any of that makeup before the play -- we were actually on stage, just hiding behind a set piece,” Loseth said. “The actors would come back and we would really quickly in the dark try to apply the makeup before their cue and they would have to get back on stage.

“It was a lot more pressure during,” she added. “It was stressful but we managed to get through all of our shows without anyone going out with half makeup on so it was good.”

This year, the process was a little better than last because she had help from fellow student Sophia Wallace.

“This year, I found it even more exciting because we were on stage and we did have a time limit,” Loseth said. “Everyone is a big part of the show and everyone contributes a lot and it felt like we were doing more than last year anyways. It was a really good experience and we were excited.”

One of the biggest jobs in the production was the stage manager and set designer, which Grade 11 student Malissa Paul took on this year.

“My role was overseeing the crew,” Paul said. “When we were at the festival, I helped run the technical rehearsal, which was very important for us to get through a lot of things so that we are ready for our performance since it is a new stage.”

The crew and actors were used to rehearsing in their own space at Carlton, but it was a challenge to use a stage in Saskatoon they had never performed on before.

“I look after the crew as well as the other members of the technical side of the production,” Paul said. “Our student director, Nicole Matheis, mainly looks after the actors.”

In addition, Paul helped build the set, giving the crew direction and leadership, but she also worked with the actors to block scenes. She also had a stage manager’s book, which was graded by the adjudicator.

“The student director acts as a mentor for the actors and leadership to them and I do a lot of the leadership for the crew,” she said.

Although stage manager is a lot of responsibility, Paul said she enjoyed the experience.

“Mr. Zulkoskey throws a lot of responsibility to us as students so that we can grow in the leadership,” Paul said. “We have an opportunity to really grow and learn and know what it is like to have a leadership position.”

Although she enjoyed the experience, Paul said she was a little nervous going into it.

“I felt at times I wasn’t really sure of myself and I did second guess myself a lot because I felt just being somewhere new you tend to do that to yourself, but after getting more comfortable with where we were it got better,” Paul said.

There were both a front stage and a back stage adjudicator, which also made Paul nervous.

“We really have to be on our game as good role models to the other part of our crew for them to know how they should be acting at festival as well as reflecting on how well the production does … in the end of things,” Paul said. “There is a lot of pressure having that backstage adjudicator always there and watching you, knowing what you are supposed to be doing and knowing when you make little mess-ups because people in the crowd don’t always know when you do little things wrong.”

Although she was nervous, Paul said that wasn’t a problem and could be considered a good thing.

“Having all those nerves and pressure makes everything more worthwhile,” Paul said. “If I didn’t have the nerves … it would seem as though I didn’t care because nerves just show you care.”

It was only Paul’s second year in the theatre company and she said she often feels like she has a lot to learn.

“Last year, Malissa first introduced herself to set design and did an amazing design and then this year she just took it over the top -- she not only designed the set but as a teacher it was a pleasure to not have to design the set,” Zulkoskey said. “She would send me some pictures, ask me some questions, but it was a great delight to see the set come alive”

He is proud of the work Paul did as both stage manager and set designer.

“To have someone of this calibre working with us is phenomenal,” Zulkoskey said. “She is only in Grade 11 so we have another year to work with her.”

When the actors and crew heard the final results of regionals, they were all surprised.

“I started crying and my friend started crying,” Gamble said. “We were both crying and everyone was just so happy. We couldn’t believe it.”

Everyone was excited about the win because they were no expecting it.

“It was kind of weird -- up until that point, we were mainly getting some more runner-up awards,” Loseth said. “Everyone was feeling a like … we weren’t at that level and we might not get it. We went into that not expecting to win.

“It was almost like a bit of a pause at our table until it sunk in,” she added.

“Our whole group was in a bit of an uproar,” Paul said. “Everyone was astounded. I am so proud of my crew.”

Zulkoskey said after the success of last year, he wasn’t expecting to do as well this year.

“You look at the situation -- we won last year and did so incredibly well,” he said. “You often think the fates are against you and how do you duplicate that?”

He kept telling the students to not expect to win Best Play this year but to perform their best.

“When it comes down to the awards, it is the opinion of the adjudicator -- they have a graded scale but it is still down to an opinion,” Zulkoskey said. “When we were successful and did win, it was an affirmation of all the long hours, the passion, the drive and the energy they put into it.

“When you have students of this capability and this interest, you can’t help but experience that excitement that comes along with the success that we had,” he added. “As a teacher, it is an affirmation of what I am doing in the classroom, it is an affirmation of what we are doing in the club and our goal is to build a better community and that is what we are doing.”

The club will now be going on to provincials, which will be held at the University of Regina May 8 to 10 and they are all looking forward to it.

“With this production and the calibre of students involved and the support they have provided for each other and the compassion, that is what makes theatre a means to make society a better place,” Zulkoskey said. “I like to think here at Carlton we are doing out best not to compete but to bring students of all interests together, all abilities to put on the best show possible.”

“I am so proud of how (my crew) performed at festival and how respectful they were with each other and how they worked together and showed a great amount of co-operation,” Paul said. “I am just so happy for our group, that we are making it to provincials once again and I think my crew deserves this chance to go on the road and excel even further.”

Carlton High School’s Mad Hatter Theatre Company came home from Regionals with a number of awards, including:

• Best Play

• Best Technical Production

• Runner- up to the Mary Ellen Burgess Performance award -- Arnelle Gamble

• Runner-up to the Bob Hinet award for technical excellence -- Fiona Loseth

• Runner-up to the Best Stage Manager award -- Malissa Paul

• Spirit of the Festival award -- Bailey Borowski

• Certificate for Technical Excellence for make-up assistance -- Sophia Wallace

• Certificate of Technical Excellence for mentoring sound technician -- Colton James

• Certificate for Technical Excellence for lighting design -- Cole Rudniski

• Certificate for Technical Excellence for original music -- Nicole Matheis

• Certificate for Acting excellence for portrayal of character -- Sarah Tweidt

Organizations: Mad Hatter Theatre Company, University of Regina, Carlton High School

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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