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Young Baie Verte thespians heading to Atlantic festival

Members of the Ridge Troupers at Copper Ridge Academy in Baie Verte — Samantha Stuckless, Shealyn Foster, Jenna Stacey and Chelsea Greenham — are pictured during a rehearsal of their original play Elegiac.
Members of the Ridge Troupers at Copper Ridge Academy in Baie Verte — Samantha Stuckless, Shealyn Foster, Jenna Stacey and Chelsea Greenham — are pictured during a rehearsal of their original play Elegiac.

BAIE VERTE, NL — Four young, female thespians from Copper Ridge Academy in Baie Verte are certainly showing no signs of grief as they prepare to take their small troupe to the Sears Atlantic Drama Festival in Prince Edward Island.

The small ensemble that make up the Ridge Troupers will be taking their original play Elegiac on the road for the non-competitive, three-day festival held at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico. The festival will take place from Friday to Sunday, with the group leaving Thursday.

“We are super excited to go showcase our play at the Atlantic festival,” said Samantha Stuckless, who also attended the festival in 2015. “It was a great experience last time. It was great to meet the other students from schools in other provinces.

“We got to explore the island, which is pretty cool, and we got to see performances and what the other groups were working on and the different talents from people around the country.”

The purpose of the festival is to provide a showcase for participants to demonstrate their unique theatrical work. Experienced theatre professionals will adjudicate the performances and workshops are offered to the students throughout the weekend. The festival is open to students from Grades 9-12 from all four Atlantic provinces.

Ridge Troupers have performed in the regional and provincial festivals this year, and have also showcased Elegiac in Baie Verte for the community. Chelsea Greenham is looking forward to taking the show outside Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We put a lot of work into our performance,” she said. “We are very honoured to represent our province at the Atlantic festival, and I think they’ll enjoy it.”

Mary Lou Stuckless has been ensuring there is a drama group in Baie Verte for more than 35 years. Despite being retired from teaching for five years, she continues as director.

Copper Ridge Academy will be participating in this Atlantic showcase for the fourth time, according to Stuckless. She said it is a special treat for the students to participate in such a festival and to work with top-notch professionals in the field.

While the high school group is small — just the four girls — the interest is much larger at the elementary level, says Stuckless. None of the four are graduating, so the future remains bright for drama at the school.

With a small cast, the director said it limited the number of scripts they could take on. So, they felt this was a good year to take on an original script. Stuckless and the four girls collaborated on the script, and eventually it moulded into the end product. The process is a good journey for those involved, she said, honing their writing, creativity and performing skills.

“Even to have the courage to put yourself out there, saying this is the work we have done,” she said. “… It is very challenging, but also a good exercise in collaboration, teamwork, creative spirit and it builds a lot of trust as well.”

Jenna Stacey agrees.

“It kind of brings us all together, the fact that we all wrote it collaboratively,” she said. “I think people really enjoyed it, and a lot of people were impressed that we were able to put off our own play.”

Shealyn Foster doesn’t necessarily see the small cast as a challenge or taking away from the importance of the group. It is also nice to have that bit of notoriety around town as one of the drama students, she said.

“It is really nice to have all the support of the school and the other students who came to watch our show,” she said. “It is nice to have the school behind you. Everybody knows us, they know who we are and what we do. It is interesting for people to see the other side of the school, other than sports, to see the arts also.”

The play

Members of the Ridge Troupers — Chelsea Greenham, Samantha Stuckless, Jenna Stacey, and Shealyn Foster — doing some line bashing in the spring air at the regional drama festival earlier this year.

Elegiac is a collaboratively created original piece by Ridge Troupers from Copper Ridge Academy, Baie Verte. The script explores a female perspective and focuses on the devastation experienced by those on the peripherals of war. These women did not march into battle, carry a gun, or treat the wounded, but they did feel the pains of war. Their lamenting thoughts echo through time and traverse geographical boundaries.

Through the ages and across the globe, war has relentlessly victimized many. The ubiquitous effects of the terrors of war are widely recognized, yet nations are quick to resort to war in response to internal and external conflicts. The loneliness, fear, destruction, and mortality associated with war create lasting impressions on the women who remain home and assume sole responsibility for family. Elegiac is a requiem to these women.

Using an ensemble approach and minimalistic style, Elegiac presents the thoughts, fears, and hopes of war weary women. The cast of four represents the many women, both past and present, who have been affected by a loved one’s involvement in conflict. Like the lamenting women, the soldiers and warriors, come from different centuries, life situations and values. They have either volunteered for service, been conscripted or were victimized by horrific acts of violence.

Since mid January, Elegiac has grown from an idea to an ensemble performance. Through chorus work, song and movement, the cast brings to life the thoughts, memories and yearnings of those left behind. A word spoken or lyric sang in a foreign language denotes the universality of their suffering. Through reminiscent thoughts, Elegiac portrays life before and during wartime and reveals a strong sense of home felt by the women. These personal memories and experiences reveal numerous similarities that cross centuries and international boundaries. Anguish, a common thread that links the women’s thoughts and stories, accentuates a timeless and universal presence of the tragic effects of war.

The women and children portrayed in Elegiac did not go to war — war came to them. War stole loved ones, broke hearts and tore families apart. From Ancient Troy to modern day Syria and Afghanistan, including the years in-between, these women followed different life-styles, beliefs and cultures; but the ravages of war unify them through experience and a collective longing that the world may some day put an end to war.

Source: Mary Lou Stuckless, director

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