Tantramar Regional High School’s upcoming musical “Anything Goes!”- May, 2010

It is Sunday afternoon and Tantramar Regional High School is alive with students. Rehearsals are taking place for the musical Anything Goes! , which opens on Friday 14th,,  and a large group of students are on stage practicing a song and dance routine, while other students crawl up ladders and behind sets fixing lights and painting. One student is directing the choreography and another is directing the play.

The teacher adviser for the production, Amy Flanagan, is somewhere in the background, where she intends to stay. Flanagan, who teaches chemistry and biology at Tantramar Regional High School, is proud of the student’s self reliance.

“I do want to take control of everything” , says Flanagan, “because that is my job, but I step back a lot and say, this is a learning experience, this is the best lesson I can teach”. Flanagan was ‘sweet talked’ into reviving the theater arts program at TRHS by students who had heard that she was involved in theater in high school. Usually Amy sticks to teaching science but this year she took on Theater Arts as well.

Anything Goes!, a Cole Porter Broadway musical, is a challenging production with a large chorus of singers and dancers. The musical takes place on a ship going from Manhattan to London. On the ship there are stowaways, gangsters and famous performers involved in a mixed up love story, with the clash of the social classes adding humor to the story.

Rebecca Guilderson,  a senior who plans to study classical voice at Mount Allison next fall, plays Reno Sweeney, a bomb shell star and singer. Rebecca  has years of theater experience and singing competitions behind her, but still finds this a challenging production, “It is dance heavy!” she says but with years of studying swing dance she is keeping up with the choreography directed by fellow student Emily Stewart.

Diante Richard, a junior who has only been in theater for one year, plays love interest Billy Crocker. Diante has also been in singing competitions and began auditioning for theater parts in order to rid himself of stage fright. Obviously comfortable on stage, Diante  finds himself in the leading role of this production and says he must work hard to balance theater work with school work. It is ‘lots of dancing and lots of lines to memorize”, says Diante.

The student director of the production, Marilla Steuter-Martin, takes a moment from rehearsals to discuss her experience directing her peers. “It can be difficult, not because they don’t respect you, but more because ‘who am I to tell these people what to do’ ! Yeah, I have experience and I have vision, but it can be intimidating”.

Their voices rising above the cacophony of construction and dance instruction Amy says about  Marilla, “This one over here is really empowered, to take on directing a a musical in Grade Eleven is awesome. She has done really well,  it is hard for any student to step into those leadership roles”.

Last year the TRHS theater group produced My Fair Lady with Marilla and her older sister Charlotte co-directing.  This year,  “It is more challenging”, says Marilla, “because you have to keep more in your head , but also it is more pressure when you don’t have the second person to rely on.”

Rebecca says that being directed by a friend can be challenging, “It is hard sometimes because you know them as your friend, and so it is hard to give them 100% respect all the time. But you have to get into the mindset that they are the one who is directing, and they are watching the scenes and they probably know it better than I do right now”.

The rehearsals are upbeat, well organized and surprisingly free of tension. Flanagan feels fortunate to have such a good group of students.  “When I was in theater there was a lot of ‘drama in drama’  and there has been a major lack of it here”.

The theater department at Tantramar has come back to life in the last year, with the theater arts class winning a video contest on the topic of Safe Grad with a cash award of $1500 going straight towards TRHS’s own Safe Grad.

Flanagan and Steuter-Martin see a renewed interest in drama among young people, with shows like Glee and Taking the Stage gaining popularity. Says Flanagan, “A lot of the actual Broadway theater productions right how are geared toward this age. When I was in theater, it was fun, but there was no shows like Wicked”, says Flanagan.

This year the theater group has benefited from participation from other areas of the school. The music teacher, Douglas LeBlanc, took over musical direction, and the Technology and Trades teacher Blaine MacIsaac has his class construct the set. “I just drew it and then it appeared yesterday.”, says Flanagan, “  it is free standing and really great “. Adds Marilla, “It is really nice for the shop students to help us out,  it involves people who would not necessarily be involved with theater”.

“We call it a student run operation but the teachers are really important,” says Marilla.  “The students can’t be in the school without us”, laughs Amy while Marilla adds, “If this were my job I would not be here on the weekend, I would rather die”! Flanagan laughs, “I am still having fun, actually, I get emotional, and I feel like a proud mother”.

Not able to enter the Drama Fest  this year due to time and transportation constraints, Amy hopes to continue the tradition next year with even more momentum. Diante, Marilla and the other returning students are ready to take leadership roles and continue the building tradition.

What: Anything Goes! The Musical

Where: The TRHS Theater

When: Friday May 14th at 7PM

Saturday May 15th  at  2 PM and 7 PM

Friday May 21  at 7 PM

Saturday May 22 at 7 PM

Tickets are available at Tidewater Books in Sackville and by calling TRHS at 364-4060

Student – $8

Adults –  $10

Seniors and Children under 12 – $6

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