Stellar actors, intricate set designs, a full pit orchestra and outstanding reviews. It’s all the makings of a Broadway hit except these shows are run entirely by high school students.
“There are about 80 students in the school involved in each of our productions,” St. Mary High School drama teacher, Jason Van Otterloo said. “Usually 30 actors, 20 technicians and a live band that features students from the school playing the music for the show.”
The school’s theatre company, Upstage Productions, was voted this year’s BOB award winner for best theatre company, beating out several other community run groups.
“Its not about the theatre company. It’s about the kids,” said St. Mary High School Principal Mark Phaneuf. “Every show is chosen based on which kids we have each year. We try to fit those God-given talents and abilities that these kids have to ensure that they can be successful and be in their best light.”
Upstage Productions produces two shows each year – a play in the fall and a musical in the spring. Phaneuf said St. Mary is one of the few schools in western Canada that has a live pit orchestra to accompany the musicals. The set construction is also completely student driven. Van Otterloo teaches a course called ‘Theatre Art’s in which students learn how to hang lights, put together sound systems and build sets and props.
“My job and goal is to enable them to do these things and then they take the reigns and I am just there to guide them,” Van Otterloo said. “When the shows on, I’m not doing anything. I sit in the theatre and watch the students run it.”
Phaneuf said its that student engagement that sets the high school’s theatre group apart from independent companies
“I trust the people that voted did so genuinely because of what they saw we are doing and appreciated what we are doing,” he said.
Upstage Productions has produced talent beyond its high school stage. Graduate Donovan Scheirer has a successful acting career based in Saskatoon and former Upstage Production student Craig Langlois now operates the EA Rawlinson Centre in Prince Albert as the technical director.
The fall production is “Blithe Spirit” by Noel Coward and it runs from Nov 29 to Dec 2, 2017 at the St Mary Lecture Theatre. Upstage Production’s spring show is the musical “Wind in the Willows” and it runs May 9-12, 2018 at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, be sure to save the date.
“I have one of the best gigs going,” said Van Otterloo. “This is what I get to do full-time with kids who want to do it. It’s the best.”
Prince Albert, SK S6V 3L5
Join the Discussion
paNOW is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules: Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. See full commenting rules.