No, the Paul Kane drama department is not suffering from a thyroid condition.
But there was one heck of an adrenalin rush after the St. Albert high school brought home the hardware from the Zone E One-Act Play Festival, cementing its standing as a top-notch creative troupe.
Last weekend’s three-day drama festival, held annually at the Timms Centre for the Arts, once again brought together some of the strongest high school productions from as far away as Athabasca and Fort McMurray.
Paul Kane drama instructor Lisa Whitson shepherded 30 Paul Kane acting students and 20 techies to the festival.
They carried home three of the most prestigious awards along with a few honourable mentions.
“This group has a very strong vision for what they wanted to see on stage. I needed to do very little guidance. Because they had such a strong vision, they were able to take it further with cleaning and polishing their shows,” says Whitson.
In a fourth consecutive year, the school received the best play award, the festival’s most prestigious honour. Grocery Story, written and directed by Hayley Moorhouse, deals with the fears and rewards of risk-taking.
“When I heard my name called I didn’t believe it. There were so many amazing shows. I was shocked,” says Moorhouse, a Grade 12 student and first-time director.
Although this was only her first crack at helming a show, Moorhouse has performed in six St. Albert Children’s Theatre productions, including last year’s Peter Pan. She credited her team for the success.
“Mostly I had a lot of people who made me look good. I had a wonderful cast and crew and that reflected well on me,” she said.
Whitson, however, had a more pragmatic view.
“It was very polished. It was very clearly directed,” she said. “Hayley had a clear vision and she worked with the actors trimming the blocking and being well prepared. Because she had such a clear vision, you noticed the characters more and had a good balance between the comedic and the dramatic.”
A strong director usually receives a muscular performance from their actors and that was the case for Moorhouse as Stephanie Holmes won best actress for her portrayal of Taylor, a down-in-the-dumps cashier working in a grocery store.
“She (Holmes) put in a lot of dedicated hard work. When I gave a direction, she would take it as far as she could. And she responded to any challenge,” Moorhouse said.
The third major acting award went to Kieran Murphy, son of Martin Murphy from The PreTenors, as best actor. He starred in the lead roles of Algernon from The Importance of Being Earnest and as Owen in Charades.
“Kieran’s characters come off as authentic and very natural. When he’s on stage, he doesn’t look like he’s acting. And he played two very different characters. Algernon is arrogant and Owen is much more humble,” Whitson said.
The Importance of Being Ernest also showcased Nicole Bertram’s talents as she captured best actress for developing the lead role of Gwendolyn.
“She really played her character strongly and pulled it all together. In this kind of a comedy if you try to be funny you fail. You have to be serious and strong, and Nicole was strong. You have to pay attention to etiquette and posture as well. By taking up these challenges, Nicole did really well.”
Two honourable mentions were awarded to Tiona Langley for her role in S.P.A.R.S. and to Andrew Boyd, winner of the Rotary Music Festival Rosebowl, for writing, directing and acting in Charades.
As part of the prize package for best play, Grocery Story will compete in the provincials in Red Deer on May 10 through 12.