By Eunice Chong
For all of the stellar theatrical productions Mowat has put on over the years, there has been a distinct lack of a community exclusive to drama kids. Even with the Performing Arts Honours Program (PAHP) that debuted in 2014, students passionate about the dramatic arts wanted for a club that catered to their interests.
Two drama and music students in the program, Kailyn Robertson and Naomi Cabral, noticed this gap and worked to rectify it. They were voted co-presidents of the new Mowat Theatrical Society in the spring of last year. Both starred in Mowat’s December 2017 production of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad.
“We noticed that the drama kids didn’t have a specific group for them, a place in which they can come and enjoy themselves in a comfortable environment,” said Naomi. “We wanted to bring back this club because it can give the drama kids and non-drama kids who are interested a safe place to talk, have fun, and further their love for the dramatic arts.”
One initiative of this revamped club is a series of workshops given to students interested in drama at Joseph Howe Sr. Public School. They meet after school on the first Tuesday of every month, where members of the Theatrical Society help them develop an arsenal of acting skills, including choral speaking, improvisation, scene work, and tableaux.
The group has grown steadily, averaging 30 Grade 7 and 8 students per session in recent months. They play icebreaker games before getting down to their topic for the day. Activities include exercises in spatial awareness, intonation, and ensemble monologues.
For instance, Naomi explains, the students are sometimes asked to lend their own interpretation to a given monologue. They divide up the roles, create a choral speaking arrangement, and work together to refine the piece. In this way, students of all levels of acting ability can explore their unique theatrical talent, power, and voice.
The program allows Howe students to get a taste of the PAHP or regular drama curriculum at Mowat. The Theatrical Society hopes to encourage and spark interest in the arts, cultivate confidence and skills such as speaking in front of audiences, and prepare them for the theatrical opportunities available to them at Mowat, whether it be through PAHP or Mowat’s annual productions.
The most rewarding part, Kailyn says, is watching the kids break out of their shell and obtain the confidence to take new risks. “They are terrific leaders,” says Kailyn of the Howe students. “In drama, you develop not only as an actor but as a person and a leader, and it is clear to see that in these kids.”