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Lac La Biche actors represent the region on the provincial stage

LAC LA BICHE - A cast and crew of 13 students from Lac La Biche's J. A. Williams High School have set the stage — literally — for a chance to put the school in the provincial spotlight.

One of four plays recently performed and produced by the students will be part of the upcoming Alberta High School Drama Association's provincial one-act play festival in Red Deer. The local group's entry into the festival is impressive, especially considering that the local high school doesn't currently have an official Drama class.

"These are13 students who have given lunch hours and after schools to practice and prepare. We didn’t have a scheduled drama class," said JAWS teacher Aimee Berland, "so I presented the option to perform at one-act events to all former drama students from Term One as well as any other students who might be interested."

The students selected one-act plays they'd like to perform from a list of available material from Alberta playwrights, and set their sights on hitting the local stages. The plays — Reservations, The Door, I Dream Before I Take The Stand and Waiting for Death — have  been performed for parents and friends, in recent weeks, and the students took their talents to the high school Zones event held at Portage College's McGrane Theatre at the end of April. The local group shared the stage with high school performers from schools in Athabasca, Thorhild and Plamondon. In past year, the Zone event has drawn more schools to the stage, but COVID restrictions over the last year really impacted school Drama classes, said Berland. 

Even with those kinds of external challenges, the Lac La Biche group's presentation of Waiting for Death was selected by judges to move onto the provincial event.

Berland said the play, a dark comedy about self-absorbed socialites at a party where Death comes calling, won the nod from judges for several categories including best set, best lead performance and best technical work.

The content of the four selections by the students is classified as mature material, said Berland, which allows the students to push some boundaries and comfort levels, and expand their skills.

"Our plays deal with some difficult issues of violence, assault and perceptions," Berland noted. "Our plays really follow a theme of perception this year; how people see themselves, how others see them and how the world handles those perceptions."

The plays were performed for community members at McGrane Theatre last Wednesday night, with the $10 ticket prices going toward the Red Deer trip. Berland said the four selections had a little bit of everything to amuse and evoke emotions.

"There will be laughs and moments of discomfort —  but good theatre should always create emotion from the audience. If we make someone feel something, we’ve done our job," Berland explained. "The students feel very strongly about the plays they’ve picked and how they have played the roles to create the best performances they can."

Their teacher is very proud of the group.

"I don’t think I can even put how proud I am on a scale. These students have gone above and beyond to create some amazing shows. This includes their work in the sound booth, lighting, costuming .... They were part of everything," she said.

The performance of Waiting For Death, will take place on the stage at Red Deer College at the provincial festival over the May 12 weekend.

"I'm definitely excited for them to perform with some of the best in the province. It really is an incredible experience that they won’t forget," said Berland.

Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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