Play Festival and TheatreLink 2022 - St Andrew's College

Play Festival and TheatreLink 2022

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Play Festival and TheatreLink 2022

The fifth annual Play Festival was held early in June. The festival celebrates excellence in drama and encourages work by pupils for pupils. It has become an eagerly anticipated event on the school calendar, generating much creativity and excitement. The Play Festival has grown from a version of Inter-House Plays to a fully-fledged festival, including pupils from every grade across both campuses.

Each year the Drama Department aims to grow the festival by including extra participants or adding an extra dimension. This year, it was decided to officially rename the festival, making it a joint event, with plays written, directed and performed by St Andrew’s College and DSG pupils.

Another difference was that four of the five plays were written by Grade 11 Dramatic Arts pupils. Three of the five plays formed part of the TheatreLink programme, an exciting international playwriting exchange programme run by the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York and implemented by the Grade 11 Dramatic Arts students.

The first play of the evening, Missing the Pointe, was written by drama pupils at Springfield High School in Springfield, Oregon, as part of the TheatreLink programme. Our production was recorded and shared with those who wrote it. The play exposed the ugly truth behind the scenes at a prestigious dance studio as the girls strive to be the best of the best. The play was beautifully staged in the Lilla Strong Hall, and the performers gave credible performances as the members of the dance studio. The production received high praise from both the writers and the TheatreLink teaching artists.

The second play, performed on the new stage in the Drama Department, was Will They See Me? Set in 1996 at a Model C school in South Africa, a promising hockey player faces racism and discrimination as she tries to navigate her way through a challenging environment to achieve success. The play, written by the Grade 11 Dramatic Arts class, was sent to EC Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia. We were able to watch a video of their interpretation of our play, followed by a meaningful discussion with the class about their production.

The third play, Unfortunately, Me, an original script written by Grade 11 pupils at St Andrew’s and DSG, was performed in an intimate space in one of the Drama studios. The protagonist, Qiniso, confronts the toxic homophobic environment at a conservative university, set on upholding its traditions, whatever the cost. She speaks her truth to power and faces devastating consequences. This play bravely tackles issues faced by the LGBTQAI+ community, calling for understanding, respect and the basic human dignity every person should be afforded.

The Social Drug, play number four, performed in the Lilla Strong Hall, was written by Grade 11s at St Andrew’s and DSG as part of the TheatreLink programme. It questions the lengths one would go to in order to be accepted and find friends. Andy is struggling to make friends in his new boarding school environment. He finds a place in an unconventional society, but is he valued by the right people for the right reasons? This play struck a chord with its teenage audience and was well supported.

The final play of the festival was the rather disturbing and deeply thought-provoking, A Howl in Makhanda. It is a semi-autobiographical work by Qondiswa James that shines a light on the often tumultuous issues of girlhood. The play follows the lives of four girls at a prestigious boarding school. Within the tightly regulated borders of the school, the girls carve out a place of their own to offload the pressures of lessons, school rules, peer expectations and personal struggles. When their hideout is discovered, the future of each girl differs dramatically under the scrutiny of the disciplinary board and the extent of the refuge their parents can provide. The five performers, assisted by Ms Megan Knowles, worked incredibly hard to realise this challenging style of performance. The production was a triumph, and once word got around, the audience lined up to get into the venue.

Congratulations and thank you to the writers, directors, performers, technical crew and others behind the scenes for all the hard work that made the Play Festival and TheatreLink programme a wonderful success.

Ms Susan Baker