EDSS drama teacher DJ Carroll has something different up his sleeve for this year’s Sears Drama Festival to be held at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School (KCI) next week.
Over the years the school has won a slew of awards in the directing, acting, stage management and music. This year Carroll hopes that his student’s production of Tuna Fish Eulogy will bring home some new hardware for the trophy case.
The play was written by Carroll’s friend Lindsay Price and won the 1996 National Playwriting Award for best one-act play. It offers mystery and misery in a challenging theatrical package. It is a very complicated play, said Carroll.
Traditional plays are written with one line after another with easy to follow dialogue. Tuna Fish Eulogy is something different. It is what’s called a ladder play. That means the text is written in columns with each character in the play getting his or her own column resulting in characters speaking in unison. The play is known as a choral play taking advantage of the ensemble of characters. All the characters in the play never leave the stage.
“It takes a lot of work to perfect but the result is musical,” said Carroll. “I have wanted to do this play for a few years now and I just thought I had a great group of kids that would be able to handle it.”
The play examines the tragedy of a young boy’s death in the 1950s. As the story unfolds, the mysteries start to pile up. Was it a suicide? Could it have been prevented? Who is responsible? The boy’s mother? The boy’s babysitter?
“With all the characters speaking at the same time it can be confusing at first but it is designed so that the audience still gets the whole story and in some ways it sounds like real life when people are all talking at the same time,” said Carroll.
It took the students quite a few reads before they understood the premise of the play. With no main characters the play is a true ensemble work and the audience is left trying to figure out the mystery when the final curtain falls.
“This show has so much depth to it, it is all about the character work and looking around the stage and seeing those little moments that the supporting actors have together,” said Candace Kuepfer, who plays Mrs. Cherry, the babysitter’s mother.
“I had a lot of fun just working on all the little character moments where a character looks to the left and you are left wondering what is she thinking – that is the exciting part of this show for me.”
The stage is quite minimal for the production with Carroll having everything painted black to emphasize the characters on stage.
“The set is nothing, it is not important. The actors, the story that is what is important and we are creating levels for the audience,” he explained.
The production will have a one-night showing at the EDSS gymnasium on tomorrow (Sunday) starting at 7:30 p.m., with tickets available at the school for $5. The play will then be a part of a three one-act show at the Sears Drama Festival at KCI on Mar. 29 starting at 7 p.m.