It is closing night of Western Canada High School Drama’s production of Our Town, a play by Thornton Wilder. Family and friends have braved the freezing weather outside to come support the cast and crew.
Laughter. Tears. Curtain.
Inside the empty school theatre, Grade 12 student Julia Hermanson says goodbye to her second family.
“Everyone [comes to know] each other so well. You spend two or three hours with each other after school and then see each other on the weekends. You become like a family” says the graduating WCHS student who played Mrs. Webb in the production.
Hermanson not only learned more about how she works with others, but in the process she also learned more about her self. To be true to a character, she shares, is to be true to one’s own emotions and experiences.
And while the show may be over, fellow castmate Emilee Shackleton (Emily Webb) says she won’t soon forget the lessons she also learned along the way.
“Theatre has taught me to be honest. It has taught me to never stop discovering” says Shackleton, a senior student who made her debut in last year’s production of Macbeth.
For drama teacher Brittany Babott, it is this sense of discovery that drives WCHS’ Drama program.
“For me, it is the exploration of what it means to be human that is a big component of the program” Babott explains. Theatre offers students like Hermanson and Shackleton a great opportunity for personal growth and development.
Despite this, Babott says, theatre still has a hard time in education.
“You need measurable outcomes, [but] you can’t have quantifiable outcomes for empathy, expression, or the students who are shy and push that.”
Part of the program’s mandate, Babott continues, is also to replicate a professional experience for students – on both the performance and technical side. It does this by collaborating with theatre professionals from the community. (Our Town was directed by Calgary based director Kevin McKendrick, an eight time Betty Mitchell nominee for Outstanding Direction).
And for students who plan to pursue a career in theatre, Babott says, the exposure to successful industry professionals fosters theatre as not only a possible career option, but a viable one as well.
What’s next for Hermanson and Shackleton after graduation?
Hermanson has applied to York University, the University of Toronto, and will be auditioning at the National Theatre School of Canada.
“Big, small, this is what I want to do…I want to continue telling the truth” says Shackleton who has also applied to several theatre schools.
It is closing night. The stage is clear. The lights are off. And with a wave goodbye, the cast and crew of WCHS Drama’s Our Town are ready to go celebrate a successful run.
Hermanson and Shackleton are deep in reflection.
Western Canada High School Drama’s production of Our Town ran at the WCHS Theatre from Nov 25 – 28, 2014.