School gets first rights to present play

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013 08:33 am

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School students perform a dress rehearsal of their production of the musical Shrek earlier this week.
Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School students perform a dress rehearsal of their production of the musical Shrek earlier this week.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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The big green ogre that captured hearts on the big screen more than a decade ago is up to his old antics at a private school in Okotoks this week.

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School senior students are bringing to life the 2001 Dreamworks animated movie Shrek, about a lovable orge on a quest to get his swamp back, in the first musical production of the animated movie to be performed in western Canada.

The school's Director of Fine Arts Chris Stockton said although the Grade 1 to 12 school was the first in Canada to secure rights to the play, an Ontario school beat them to the punch with its performance of Shrek last week - but they are still first in western Canada. “It's a real neat feather in our cap that we can say we are the first school in western Canada to produce 'Shrek',” he said.

Stockton saw the musical in New York and Las Vegas and knew it was something his students could take on. However, it wouldn't be easy.

First of all, the play did not come with costumes.

“You are starting from scratch,” he said. “You can't just rent costumes, you've got to go through the bumps of figuring it out.”

The school had costumes and prosthetics created for the characters to make them look as professional as possible.

“People are expecting certain things when they come here,” he said. “When people come to see 'Shrek' they expect they are going to see Shrek, not somebody painted green with two weird ears sticking out of their head.”

Among the most complicated pieces was a 20-foot dragon. Stockton said it consists of four puppeteers including the head and voice done by Grade 11 student Taylor Fewer, of Okotoks.

Fewer, who has been involved in musical theatre from a young age, said when she auditioned for Shrek she didn't have a particular part in mind, but was ecstatic to play the challenging role of the dragon.

“It's not just me, I have to rely on three other people to move the character,” she said. “It's just coordinating it is a little bit difficult but it's really lovely.”

She sings a variety of songs throughout the play and suspects her voice range landed her the challenging role.

“My vocal range just fit with dragon and I had that little bluesy and gospel sound they wanted,” she said.

“(The songs) have a really cool sound to a lot of them and the way they fit together is really nice.”

Taking on the role was a bigger challenge than Fewer expected.

“You think a high school production is not always as elaborate,” she said. “I think we are going full out this year and it's going to be really nice.”

Stockton was put to the task of finding students to fit the unique cast of characters from Shrek and his Scottish accent to Pinocchio with his high-pitched voice.

More than 50 students were cast to fill the various roles.

“It's hard because you want to give the students something to make it their own, you don't want them to try to imitate somebody, you want them to become the character yet stay within what the audience is expecting of the character,” he said. “If you've gone too far off you've lost the character.”

The students were selected for their roles last spring and given their music to practice over the summer. Rehearsals began the first week of September.

“It's crazy right up until show time,” Stockton said. “We've got really incredibly hard-working kids and students who have a real passion to be here and are.

“There's high-academic expectations and a number of extra-curricular activities they are involved with. I can put in as much effort as I want but it's the kids that have to make it come to life and they've really stepped up to the plate.”

It wasn't only the students who put in their best effort. Stockton said staff, parents and parents of alumni also played an important role.

“We have an incredible staff and incredibly supportive parent community that really stepped up to the plate to help us,” he said. “It's been a real community effort to get the show going.”

Stockton said about half a dozen staff members worked on the show and just as many parents help set up displays, built sets, sewed costumes and constructed the 20-foot dragon.

“We've got such a wonderful parent support team here of people who are willing to give up their time and energy and staff members that do the same thing,” he said.

“Everybody rallied around the show. It's such an important part of what we do at STS that everybody wants to make sure it's a success.”

“Shrek” is on stage at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School from Nov. 27 to 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 30 at 1:30 p.m.

The cost is $20 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the school or by emailing Krista Dickson at dicksonk@sts.ab.ca

Spectators should note that strobe lights and fog will be used during the performance.


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