“We have the whole theatre to rehearse!”
“Better than your basement!”
Three young narrators, Justin Whittam Geskes, Fiona Peets and Christina Stellmacher introduced the culminating performance of the Upper Canada Playhouse two week senior theatre school.
The 24 members of the class presented the original show to parents, friends and family on Saturday, July 13. I may have been an audience of one at the Friday afternoon dress rehearsal, but the young performers put their hearts into the production, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The students, ages 9-16, were taught by Mary Ellen Viau, who has an extensive background in drama. During the two weeks course, she was also assisted by Justine Erdellyi, who works professionally in production at the Playhouse.
Louder Than Words grew out of their experiences with theatre techniques, with vocal and physical training, drama exercises and interpretations.
“Our goal with this year’s session was to work on communications skills, particularly non-verbal ones,” said Viau. “With many young people, texting and technology have really taken over: many do not realize that such technology has its limitations. It’s important to show how non-verbal communication is necessary on stage and in real life. It’s nice to open this special window to kids: there are limitations to electronics.”
“I think the students are taking some new ideas away from their time in drama camp,” said Erdellyi.
Judging by the enthusiasm the young performers demonstrated in their play, the possibilities existing in non-verbal communication are exciting and often comic.
With just flat, bare bones words beginning, “You’re late.” “What kept you?” “I thought you’d understand..” the cast showed how actions, different expressions, costumes and lighting can totally change the meaning of words on a page, or a screen. A hospital operating room, burglars meeting up to “do a job”, the skits performed couldn’t have been more different. Yet each skit used the exact same words. (Two rather hilarious set dressers, the ‘Long and Short’ of it, as I dubbed them, dashed about the stage silently changing all the scenes and demonstrating comically how they could also communicate with an audience – non-verbally.)
The actors show cased musical talents, dance and piano, proving that communication can take many forms, not just words. And what is spoken aloud (a mother/ daughter phone call) may reveal emotions at odds with words through body language. The play ended with an exhilarating musical number developed out of everything from sink strainers to sandwich boxes. “Actors know all about communication,” said Viau. “Texting isn’t bad. It just doesn’t tell a complete story.”
The junior theatre school will be presenting their play on Friday, July 19, at 2 p.m. at UCP.