On April 23, Lloydminster Comprehensive High School (LCHS) is sending a team of student actors to Ardrossan, Alta. to compete in the regional round of the Alberta One Act Play Festival. Winners at the regional level will go on to the provincial finals in Red Deer, Alta. in May.
Schools are allowed to submit three plays each to the competition, but LCHS is only preparing two plays. Drama teacher Simon Stang describes one of the plays as “Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies” and the other as a “Monty Python-esque medieval meta play.”
“The script selection process is always my favourite because I love picking out well-written scripts with authentic dialogue, witty humour and poignant messages, because that’s what theatre’s all about: pushing boundaries and making people think,” he said.
Stang picked out the plays in the autumn. He started with five, before narrowing them down to three. He intended on bringing all three plays to the festival, but his lead actor withdrew, leading him to scrap the play.
Auditions and casting was done in the beginning of March, with rehearsals beginning two weeks later. Auditions were open to all students and six of the nine cast members attending the competition have worked with Stang as members of the LCHS improv club. Stang says the school’s drama program has grown over the past three years.
“It used to be like pulling teeth trying to find enough (actors) to fill even one play, now we’re able to fill up two or three,” he said. “It’s just a slow, steady process of building momentum and building interest in the program.”
Now with the competition approaching, Stang is holding daily rehearsals. He says the cast members are still learning their lines, but once they have them memorized they will be able to focus on other details like their onstage movement.
Stang says arranging for rehearsals can be challenging when working with high school students. They all balance a number of responsibilities and extra-curricular activites.
“It always takes a while for me to figure out schedules because all of them work, dance, play football, not to mention that they’re all quite good students in school as well,” he said. “But now that we’re finally into the process of rehearsing, once we get going they’re very effective.”
Stang says despite all the early planning, he finds plays don’t get really rolling until opening night is on the horizon and deadlines are looming large.
“My Christmas plays, sometimes they’re cast eight to 10 weeks ahead of time ... It seems like (with) actors, at least high school actors, it’s not until it’s crunch time that they actually start buckling down,” he said. “So usually a week or two ahead of time it’s like, ‘All right, its time to get into character.’”
Stang’s students can be seen in character on April 22, when the LCHS team will be previewing their plays at the LCHS black box theatre. Admission is $5.
Show time is 7 p.m.