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Eco play to rock Arden

Features talking trash, giant cookie, audience participation

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 06:00 pm

"TRASHY" PLAY - (L-R) Leo Nickerson students Alesha Worthmann, Syhdnnae Jans, Ava Mackenzie, Emma Richardson, Ayanna Fata, Finn LaPierre, Isabelle Poulin, and Amiyah Charron show off some of the props and costumes for the school's upcoming play, Our World, Our Future. The mess on the floor is part of a simulated garbage dump used in the play.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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A garbage monster and a sapient cookie are coming to the Arden next week to ask St. Albert residents to take care of the environment.

About 62 Grade 6 students from Leo Nickerson Elementary will be on stage at the Arden Theatre next Thursday for a performance of Our World, Our Future – a play about environmental issues in St. Albert.

The play is written, produced and performed by the students, who have been working on it since January, says Nickerson drama teacher Kerry McPhail-Hayden. Their props and sets are ready, and they’re holding their first dress rehearsal this Saturday.

McPhail-Hayden says she got the idea for the play last year when she heard about the city’s Environmental Initiatives Grant program. She put in an application for it and won a $1,700 grant.

The play itself is a collaborative one where the audience participates in its outcome, McPhail-Hayden says. “It really wraps up the whole elementary drama program,” she adds, as it taps every form of acting that the children have learned.

The play is about an hour long and features 41 scenes, some of which are musical numbers.

The ideas for each scene came direct from the students, McPhail-Hayden said. One student had the idea of trash talking back to you, for example, which led to a skit where a man tosses a recyclable bottle into a dump, prompting protests from the dump.

“There’s a banana that’s supposed to be in the organics,” she explains, as well as a cookie and a juice box. “They’re all talking, ‘I should be in the organics! I should be in the recycle! Why are you throwing more recycling in here?’”

The students also plan appearances by garbage monsters and the super-hero Antibacterial Man, she adds.

Some of the scenes will be interactive, says student Finn LaPierre. There’s one scene where a man is pouring paint into a sewer when the cops arrive, for example, and the audience will have to decide the man’s fate.

Tying the scenes together will be a frame story about a group of friends, says student Isabelle Poulin. “Some of us kind of care about the environment, and some of us not really.” They will be recurring characters in the play, and their views on the environment will evolve over time.

One of the play’s musical numbers was inspired by a presentation given to the students by city environmental co-ordinator Meghan Myers, McPhail-Hayden says.

When Myers mentioned the Yellow Fish Road program (where people paint yellow fish on sewer grates to discourage illegal dumping), the students hit on the idea of doing a parody of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” from The Wizard of Oz.

Most of the play’s props and sets are made of reused or recyclable materials donated and assembled with the help of parents, McPhail-Hayden says.

That includes the play’s massive faux-garbage dump, which includes samples of the top 10 items typically found as litter in most municipalities.

“One of the mothers spent a week making giant cigarette butts,” McPhail-Hayden says. Another brought in a truckload of recyclable material, all of which will be recycled at the end of the play.

One of the toughest parts of the production was co-ordinating everyone, says student Alesha Worthmann. The team used Google Docs to collaborate on the script and worked through lunches and recesses.

Student Ayanna Fata says she learned a lot about water and air pollution while working on this play, and says she was surprised that the city did not yet have its own air quality monitoring station.

The students hope the play should challenge the audience to think about pollution and how they have to work together to prevent it.

“Everybody is a part of this Earth,” Worthmann says. “We all should help care for it so one day we don’t have to live in something like a garbage pile.”

Show-times are 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. March 27 at the Arden, with a special 11 a.m. performance for Leo Nickerson students. Tickets are free, but limited.

Students will be taking donations at the door for the Yellow Fish Road program, McPhail-Hayden says.

Email for details.


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