While Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School may not have a production in the provincial showcase at the National Theatre School Festival this year (last year’s And She Split the Sky in Two advanced to the finals – the best showing for a Grand Erie production), the school is set to be the host with the most to the best student theatre productions in the province.
“This festival is where so many get their start in theatre and find their love for it,” said Anna Bowald, Grade 12 student at BCI, and one of the students involved in the planning and organization of this year’s event. “Participating in the provincials last year gave us a chance to take it all in so we had a sense of what we’d be doing this year as hosts.”
Now in its 73rd year, the National Theatre School Festival provides an opportunity for secondary school students to come together as a larger community. They watch each other’s productions, discuss the creative works, network with fellow drama students, and experienced adjudicators who decide which productions advance in the competition. Hosting the event is no small feat, so students from BCI’s drama department are lucky to have students from Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School joining forces with them in the co-planning, hosting, and student ambassador duties for the four-day festival which begins Wednesday (May 8).
“It’s a place of belonging. I know that sounds cheesy, but you really do find your family here,” said Bowald of the experience of being involved in theatre. “We’re all here because we love it.”
Fostering that love are staff members Keira Lynas and Jan St. Denis at BCI, and Catherine Guida at Pauline Johnson, who have provided instrumental guidance and advice to the student team taking on the responsibility. For members of the public, it’s a chance to take in some of the greatest student talent in acting, directing, and technical elements of theatre.
“This festival brings a lot of hard-hitting political topics and social issues to the forefront, but there’s also a sprinkling of light-hearted shows, which makes it a really balanced festival where you can expect to both laugh and cry,” said Mckinnley Hoskins, also in Grade 12 at BCI, and taking a hands-on role in event planning and festival promotions. “That’s the thing I’m most looking forward to is seeing all of the shows.”
BCI’s auditorium will be the showcase’s main stage, and students have been working hard to provide a welcoming experience for students from across Ontario.
“I’m so proud of the arts department here, and the auditorium is the crown jewel of the school,” said Hoskins, “But, it’s not only a chance to showcase BCI, this is an opportunity for us to say, ‘look at how talented my friends are!’”