In the field of nine schools at Deer Lake this past weekend, Indian River High of Springdale was named Best Overall Production by adjudicator Michael Waller — an award-winning director, actor, playwright and teacher. Justin Thomas was named Best Male Actor, while Nick Clarke earned an acting distinction award.
It had been some 10 years since Indian River High captured a regional drama festival title, according to long-time director Peter Hillier. The group took on what seemed to be a bold choice of play in The Breakfast Club, something the director said Waller noted to them during his adjudication. However, they obviously pulled it off.
“They were fantastic,” he said. “It was quite a memorable weekend. I was very, very pleased and proud of their performance. It was the best time they had performed the play.”
The director said the field in the western region was tough. He said he actually had a personal choice he thought would win the Best Overall Production, but was thrilled to learn his students had risen to the top with their performance.
An entire cast of Level 3 students was an advantage, according to Hillier, a combination of seasoned and experienced actors. He believes the joy they put into their performance added to the professionalism they showed.
Thomas said the Best Overall Actor award for his role as John Bender was an honor to receive, especially having the recognition come from Waller. The Springdale student said he had no trouble playing the role of a skeet and jerk.
“I played the part good because I fit the part good,” he said.
Thomas said the cast and crew from Indian River High were “pumped” to win the regional festival, but they are disappointed they will be unable to attend the provincial festival in St. John’s as it conflicts with their graduation.
Valmont Academy students of King’s Point also claimed their share of hardware from Waller. Jessie Austin won an award for Outstanding Performance, Taylor Gillingham for Best Use of Light, and Melisa Adali for Best Use of Sound.
The Valmont students took on Shuddersome: Tales of Poe by Lindsay Price, which pays tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s classic Tell Tale Heart, The Oval Portrait, and The Raven.
Director Jennifer Harris said the students’ effort and dedication to the play all year was extraordinary. The play was a different than the typical performances, with its focus on more technical aspects of theatre, thus a challenging one, she said.
“They rose to the challenge, each and every one of them, above and beyond,” Harris said.
Austin, just a Grade 9 student at the school, was remarkable in her role, said the director.
Adali, a Grade 7 student, said she didn’t expect the accolade. It was just her first year in drama, but she promises it won’t be her last. The atmosphere of the festival and the camaraderie shown by fellow competitors amazed her.
“Everyone at the festival was so kind and so accepting, even though it was a competition,” she said. “There was no jealousy and it was very celebratory of everyone’s plays, regardless of whether they got an award or if they won.”
Fellow schoolmate Hailey Noseworthy, a Grade 10 student, has been with the drama group at Valmont for four years.
“Our play, in particular, was beautiful on stage,” she said. “It was great to be part of this festival.
“Our team together was a great ensemble. It was beautiful to be part of. All together we are like a family.”
Copper Ridge Academy
The students of Copper Ridge Academy in Baie Verte — Ridge Troupers — won two awards for their performance of Elegiac. The play is a collaboratively created original piece by the group. It explores a female perspective and focuses on the devastation experienced by those on the peripherals of war.It won awards for Ensemble Acting and Original Script. It is just a four-team cast with Chelsea Greenham, Samantha Stuckless, Jenna Stacey, and Shealyn Foster. Mary Lou Stuckless is the director.