Chocolate factory to sweeten school’s stage
Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017 03:58 pm
A performance by junior high students is sure to get tummies rumbling this month.
More than 30 Ecole Okotoks Junior High School students are bringing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the stage under the guidance of drama teacher Charmaine Ferguson.
The play hits the stage March 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. and March 25 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the school.
Ferguson said the students, who offer a range of experience, are bringing the children’s book to life.
“Even though the characters in the book seem superficial, I want them to really get into their character and really feel what their character would be feeling if they were in the same situation,” she said. “The kids have taken those flat characters from the book and made them more dynamic. You can see some genuine emotion in these kids. They’ve really taken the characters and developed a backstory for them, developed something new about them to make it their own.”
Grade 9 student Ashlyn Smith, who plays Mrs. Beauregard, said it took a lot of work the past few months to figure out who her character really is.
“At the beginning I thought of her as a regular mom, but I realized there was a lot more to that,” she said. “There is a lot of pride going on with her daughter. She thinks her kid is superior to the others.”
Smith created a character analysis and an original backstory for Mrs. Beauregard, to determine how she relates to the other characters.
After months of rehearsals, Smith portrays a confident, nose-in-the-air woman who struts around stage and constantly fawns over her daughter Violet.
“She speaks with assuredness,” she said. “There’s lots of sarcastic reactions to what people are saying.”
Through her character development Ashlyn connected with the student who plays Violet.
“At first I had to clue in to who this kid is when I started working with her,” she said. “We got to know each other and as we started working together better we could figure out what the other was wanting.”
Aidan Smith faced a very different challenge when taking on the role of candy-loving youngster Augustus Gloop.
“He’s a kid who, basically, his only real passion is candy and chocolate,” he said. “He’s bored with things until candy is mentioned.”
To play Gloop, Aidan has to switch between low and high energy – acting with a burst of energy when food is mentioned.
“It was pretty difficult to start off with,” he said. “The character acts a lot different than me. I’m not overly crazy like he is about chocolate.”
Aidan said his favourite scene is when everyone enters the chocolate room.
“In that scene it’s where my character really shines,” he said. “He finds out that the river is made of chocolate and sneaks away from the group and starts drinking it and falls in. The other people there are freaking out because they don’t know what to do.”
Ferguson said she is proud of the work students have put into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be able to offer a high calibre production.
“I have high expectations because we feed into Alberta High School of Fine Arts and we’re trying to make it more of a priority to have a strong drama and dance program and to do bigger productions so that we can be a really good feeder school for that,” she said.
Students rehearse two to three days a week and outside of practices work on perfecting their characters, Ferguson said.
“I really just want to encourage each one of them to really grow as an actor,” she said. “There is definitely been breakthrough moments for a lot of these kids through the process. Sometimes they keep playing a character in the same way or try to find an emotion and it’s just not working and they’re hitting a wall. Just giving them experience to do a new idea and have them play something in a different way, I’ve seen some of those wonderful light-bulb moments.”
Tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be bought at the school office at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children under five are free. Tickets purchased at the door for the Saturday matinee are by donation, only if seats are available. Tickets purchased in advance are regular price.