Anybody who’s been involved in theatrical productions is well aware that some of the most entertaining moments happen behind the scenes, in rehearsals or backstage at the performance. In those cases, of course, the audience is none the wiser.
But sharing in those antics is just what the audience gets to do in a new production by the EDSS drama department. The Play’s the Thing is a play within a play, revealing all about the process of making theatre.
Written by drama teacher DJ Carroll and some of his students, the production tells the tale of a group of actors trying to put on a play, with the resultant backstage hijinks being much more captivating than the story they want to stage.
“It’s really a lot of fun, as you get a look at what’s going on backstage and all the things that can go wrong,” Carroll explained.
The plot thickens as two would-be thieves attempt to infiltrate the production in order to steal some valuable objects being used as props.
The Play’s the Thing is Elmira District Secondary School’s entry into the Sears Drama Festival. The district competition takes place next weekend, and the drama students will be performing one public show Wednesday night in advance of heading to St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge.
The script was inspired by the play and movie versions of Noises Off. The enormously successful play was written in 1982 by English playwright Michael Frayn, and made into a 1992 movie starring Michael Caine and Carol Burnett, among others.
“There’s always a lot going on – always something funny,” said Carroll
The goings-on behind the scenes – the technical problems, the egos and the romances – are all something even the young actors can relate to, he said, noting how the script came together.
Moving the actors from on stage to backstage, all the while keeping the pace blistering, has been a challenge, albeit an enjoyable one, he added.
Given that the audience can’t be out in the seats and behind the stage at the same time, the production has the additional technical challenge of a rotating set: the stage and the backstage.
“Whenever we go backstage, you actually get to see backstage,” he said.
Next week’s performance for the judges is the first of three levels in the Sears Drama Festival. The district competition will be followed by regional contests and then the provincial showcase to be held in Brantford in May.
Now in its 64th year, the drama festival involves some 10,000 students and teachers from more than 300 secondary schools. What started as a small Toronto drama presentation in 1946 has evolved into one of the largest student festivals in the world.
At this point, however, it’s one hurdle at a time for the EDSS entry.
In Cambridge, Elmira students will face off against 15 other entries from 14 schools – “it’s going to be really competitive.”
The public performance of The Play’s the Thing will take place Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school’s main gym.