Knox United Church was transformed back to the pirate age last week, when students from The Fernie Academy (TFA) presented their year-end play, Treasure Island.
Treasure Island, was written by Robert Louis Steven in 1881, and takes place in the early days of sailing ships, pirates and adventure. Jim Hawkins, played by Zac Watson, and Emma Gilmet, set out on a perilous voyage, seeking answers about a mysterious treasure map which fate put in his hands. Anthony Milligan and Dylan Morgan played the character of Long John Silver, a sly and slippery sailor whose only motive is greed. When Silver finds out that Hawkins possesses the treasure map, Hawkins must play his cards right to ensure his survival. Besides this, the landlubber tavern-keep must retain his composure while faced with threats of mutiny, betrayal, and the intimidating Chief Pigaloo (Catrin Merritt) and her native tribe. Justice is served when the mutiny plot is unveiled, Long John Silver is arrested by Captain Smollett (Dorothea Davidson) and her crew, and the treasure is distributed among those who deserve it.
Treasure Island is a classic story of adventure. It’s also a coming-of-age story for Jim, who must think quickly and make the right decisions in the moment.
Students started working on the play in January, and presented it over three days. Opening night, Wednesday, June 7 was performed by the seniors. The following night was presented by a younger group of actors, and the final night was a compilation between the two age groups. They acclaimed this night as the best show in the series.
Children from grades eight to 12 were involved in this project, as well as the entire graduating class.
Makeup and hair was undertaken by graduating student, Cheyenne Marriott, who will be leaving to attend Vancouver Film School to study this passion, next year.
Director and choreographer Denise Baughan says it was a pleasure directing the play for such a motivated group of young individuals. Baughan is the drama teacher at TFA, and has been teaching the program for five years.
“These guys have been really accountable in regards to making sure that they were at rehearsals on time… and really committed to the overall process,” she said.
Baughan admitted that by the time the first performance approaches, things can be very stressful. However she found that this year, that was not the case. She believes this is because the students were on-point and focused.
“I’m lucky, because I feel that my kids trust me quite a bit,” she said. “And that allows me to take them a little bit further because we have that positive relationship… It’s so rewarding, as an educator, it’s really special.”
Graduating students who will not be returning next year include Sophia Loewen (Ben Gunn), Donovan Gostick (O’Brien), Liam Cote (Allan), Zac Watson (Young Jim), Anthony Milligan (Long John) and Cheyenne Marriott (makeup and hair).
Baughan was instrumental in directing the program, but also saw the students take on a large portion of the choreography themselves.
“I always try to make my youth shows like a fingerprint project for high school especially, where they get feedback about the entire process instead of it being very director-oriented,” said Baughan.
For the youth director, the most difficult part about any performance is transitioning from the classroom to the performance space. Often the block planning, or choreography, has to be redone to a certain extent, to suit the space they have. Usually the framework they set up works as a solid foundation, but has to be tweaked and perfected in the last three weeks of in-house rehearsals.
In Baughan’s eyes, opening night was a success. From the audiences perspective, the play was spot-on. As nerves were present in the actors, they evidently overcame these and few mistakes were made. The audience was left laughing one moment, and drawn to the edge of their seat the next.
Besides the growth for the actor in both skill and confidence that comes with live-performances, Baughan believes that theatre as a whole is a living art form, and has a special way of bringing a community together. Having three shows also brought with it a new audience every night, making every night unique.
“That’s what makes it exciting, you never know what’s going to happen in live theatre,” said Baughan.