Above: Members of The Scarlet Heart's production and stage team.

Drama Festival Takes Centre Stage 


rand Erie thespians are set to break a leg at the upcoming National Theatre School's DramaFest, with Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School ready to raise the curtain as hosts of the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Oxford District showcase of the festival this month. Students from the school's stage crew, which is presenting The Scarlet Heart, a feat of physical comedy with energetic improvised performances, sat down to chat about the preparations, welcoming fellow theatre lovers to the school, and the power of the arts to change one's life. 

"The planning started in June of last year, then we met a couple times over the summer, and since September, we've basically been meeting twice a week, every week, to bring it all together," said Aidan de Resendes, a member of the tech crew who is in his last year at BCI, and has stepped into a mentoring role to pass the behind-the-scenes torch. "With the momentum of previous successful productions, I feel like it's really pushed us to reach new heights." 

Above: The Scarlet Heart on the stage.

The process of choosing a play was a carefully considered task, and with many teen productions gravitating to darker themes, the BCI team felt like this was a great year to lighten up. 

"The Scarlet Heart is an example of commedia dell'arte, an Italian style of slapstick comedy with archetypical characters, and it's a really fun show to stage," said Katrina Davis, a Grade 12 student who plays Arlecchino in the production. "A lot of times in previous years, the themes of plays in the festival have been dark and painful, but it's a good time to be laughing." 

Students feel now more than ever, this will resonate with audiences.

"After COVID, we saw a big shift in the content of the plays at the festival, which helped get us back in the swing of things with something more uplifting," said Kai Kennedy, the production manager who's in her final year, and who decided in Grade 4, after seeing a DramaFest production, that she wanted to get involved. "It's about bringing people together and giving them a reason to be happy."

Members of the backstage crew, who've seen every performance from a unique vantage, agree. 

"Because of the improvised elements, each performance feels fresh," noted Lillian Howard, who is in Grade 11 and a member of the lighting team. "I still laugh every time."

All joking aside, the production team is serious about the ability of the arts to inspire, and even change people's lives for the better. 

"The arts is everything, especially the dramatic arts," said Hannah Louden, who's part of the props department and stage crew. "In education, it teaches you valuable skills you really can't get anywhere else."

"It stretches you creatively," agrees Louden's crew partner Genevieve Wey. "It gives a chance for people to try new things and be who they are."


For secondary school students involved, the sense of belonging the theatre offers is something they hope audiences pick up on. 

"The arts allows you to develop your soul and really figure out who you are," added de Resendes. "Most importantly, I think the arts is a place for people who don't always feel like they belong; it's a home for anyone and everyone."

As host school for this part of the festival, the team is excited to welcome other schools and audiences. 

"It's very special to be able to share this space with others, and to say proudly, 'this is my school!'" said Peighton Krueger, member of the set department who will also take on hosting duties. 

"Welcoming people to the auditorium is a bit like welcoming people to our home, because we spend so much time here," added Wey. 

Ticket sales make NTS DramaFest productions possible. For a night of entertaining theatre, and to support this important work, tickets can be purchased at the door. 

This year's Grand Erie productions include:

  • The Struggles, Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School 

  • All I Need to Know I Learned By Being in a Play, McKinnon Park Secondary School 

  • The AI Play, Delhi District Secondary School

  • At the Frog Fountain, Cayuga Secondary School

  • Bad Dates, Hagersville Secondary School 

  • The Scarlet Heart, Brantford Collegiate and Vocational School 

Festival dates, location and time: 

  • March 26, 27 and 28

  • Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, 120 Brant Ave, Brantford

  • Tickets available at the door; first show takes the stage at 6 p.m. each night


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