Highland Secondary School senior theatre students recently returned from the National Theatre School BC Festival, and brought with them three awards for their production of their one-act play [epistolary].
The play was showcased alongside high school productions from throughout B.C. at the three-day festival in New Westminster. Highland’s play was chosen to represent the North Island Zone at the provincial level after being named Outstanding Production, and receiving numerous accolades at the regional drama festival earlier this year on Vancouver Island. The regional awards included Excellence in Voice for Claire Knowles and Miranda Hatch, Outstanding Lighting and Design for Selah McKinnon, Outstanding Sound Design and Scoring, and Ensemble Excellence in Drama for the company.
At provincials, the students networked with other young artists, took workshops in the theatre arts with industry professionals, and performed their play. The students brought home awards for Outstanding Lighting Design by McKinnon, Outstanding Performance by Ewa Bozeroka, and Outstanding Stage Management by Victoria Frowen.
In addition, Highland was recognized as the school that went above and beyond throughout the festival’s duration and was publicly awarded the coveted festival banner. This recognition was meaningful as it shone a light on their hard work and significant experience the students had creating this production.
Lisa Williams, Highland’s drama teacher, said she chose the play [epistolary] because, “when I read the play for the first time it took hold of my creativity and wouldn’t let it go. Instantly images, emotions and an atmosphere were created within my imagination that needed to be explored.”
“[epistolary] explores part of the human experience that is uncomfortable to address, and it does so in a really beautiful way that also pushes the boundaries of the theatre norm,” said McKinnon.
“We took the script and worked to physicalize it, using technical and artistic elements to amplify the theme of the play. We explored, grew and developed the play to make it our own.”
The cohesive ensemble of 12 people worked for several months refining the play, taking the time to question and explore. They worked to include the suggestions offered by the North Island adjudicators Robinson Wilson and Charlie Ross.
While there was reward in presenting the play and being recognized, the true richness of the experience was rooted in the process of working together.
“Everyone who was involved in the production, their thoughts were heard and respected. That, in of itself, takes the process of production, and the quality of the presentation to an entire new level,” said McKinnon.
Both McKinnon and Knowles said that Williams led them to this place.
“She guided and taught us, more than just directing us. We the students felt a great deal of ownership. It wasn’t just a play we were in, it was a play we created,” said Knowles, who appreciated that Williams also encouraged all team members to explore their own personal creative process and to share their thoughts.
McKinnon echoed how powerful and beautiful this experience was.
“The show was a gift to each other, that Ms. Williams made happen,” she said.