COLD LAKE - In a remarkable achievement for both her and her students, Dana Schwab, an English and drama teacher at Cold Lake High School (CLHS), has emerged as the winner of the 2023 A+ Playwriting Contest for Teachers.
The contest, organized by Pioneer Drama, recognized Schwab's outstanding contribution to the world of high school theatre with her fantasy adventure stage play, "Heist Quest."
The award comes with a series of notable benefits, including the publication of Heist Quest, making it accessible to school and community theatre groups globally. Schwab will receive a royalty advance of $500 USD, and the CLHS drama program will be awarded a $500 USD donation.
For Schwab, the award signifies more than just personal achievement, it also opens doors for her students and the broader theatrical community.
“At Cold Lake High School, I work with an excellent group of students. Whether they act, organize costumes and props, create the art for promotional posters, or run the lights and sounds in the tech booth, they work incredibly hard and are so generous with their time and talent,” Schwab said. “When you think about it, there's a lot of self-sacrifice that goes into rehearsing for months for a show that is performed for an audience only three times.”
Schwab's journey as a playwright began in 2019 when she wrote her first play for CLHS students. Unfortunately, the creation of that play was halted.
“The first play I wrote for Cold Lake High School was actually cancelled three weeks before our opening night. This was due to the transition to online learning in March of 2020. And it's actually the show that we will be performing this year, in May 2024. It's called Stars Over Arkham, and it's a 1920's film noir thriller about a detective hired to investigate a haunted house,” explained Schwab.
Schwab admits that she submitted the script for Heist Quest on a whim, not having any expectations of winning the award.
“I was aware of this award before submitting, as I have used Pioneer Drama scripts before and knew they were an excellent company. However, I was absolutely not expecting to win. I wrote the play Heist Quest last year specifically for the students who performed it and specific to the space it was performed in,” added Schwab.
Heist Quest unfolds as a playful tale featuring a wizard, chicken farmer, thief, and a knight on a choose-their-own-adventure quest to rescue a princess. Drawing inspiration from Monty Python, Dungeons and Dragons, and Ocean’s Eleven, the play offers a timeless narrative with broad audience appeal.
Following the successful performance, the play is set to be available for licensing by January 2024, extending its impact to even more school and community theatre groups.
As Schwab continues to mold the theatrical journeys of her students, she humbly acknowledges that this accomplishment wouldn't be possible without the support of her students and those around her.
“I'm grateful to them, as well as to my sister, my partner, and my daughter: those three have spent hours with me in the theatre, be it in the audience, behind the scenes, or as my cheerleaders when it comes to writing. They're the best. I wrote Heist Quest in part just to make my sister laugh, so thank you, Carly. It looks like it made other people laugh, too.”