“Children shine in this. That’s the thing that’s wonderful. Even the little kids you don’t think are going to – sometimes they surprise you,” said Barbara Hooper, a volunteer at the Festival of the Arts, helping out speech arts adjudicator Debbie McGladdery.
The adjudicator said it was a great start to the festival, especially with all the groups from local schools who performed, adding that it is quite unusual to see so many groups perform at a festival.
“Lots of places you don’t hear any group work and they had a whole morning of it, but choral speaking – I don’t know whether teachers are afraid to try it. Readers theatre is a wonderful way to let them do a bit of drama without all the trouble of production. It was very nice to see the kids getting involved. Good choices too, I thought,” said McGladdery.
Groups of students from the Forest Grove, 100 Mile House, and Mile 108 Elementary schools performed various pieces in choral speaking and readers theatre. Both are a category in speech arts with choral speech being a group of people narrating a poem while readers theatre is a dramatic presentation of written work in speech form, divided between readers and without any costumes or props.
One performance that got high praise was the Forest Grove’s Grade 5-7’s The Hobbit, the Mile 108 school’s Drama Club’s interpretation of Robert Munsch’s Stephanie’s Ponytail. Both were in the readers’ theatre category.
McGladdery said the characterization of The Hobbit’s Gollum was ‘amazing’ and one of the narrators was very into it, with her head up every time when she spoke her lines.
“You could see a lit of faces in those groups who should be doing it by themselves. They’re itching to take the spotlight. Only if someone could go and say try this because you’d love it,” said McGladdery,
Ginny-Lou Alexander, a committee member of the organization as well as the discipline head of both speech arts and piano, said the two categories teach its students so much in regards to teamwork and pulling their own weight, as well as memorization and preparation skills. She also stressed the importance of learning speech arts for anyone who wants to have a career in the dramatic arts, whether it be on the stage or in front of a camera.
The three of them also discussed how much movement should be involved in the speech arts. Not as active as other dramatic arts, some adjudicators in the past encouraged students and performers to stand straight and relax their arms at their sides.
However, Alexander said there should be a balance in how much movement is used.
“If you are going to say I put my hat on my head, you don’t have anything left for the audience to do. If you are going to tell them everything and show them everything then they don’t have to get engaged,” she said.
McGladdery, while agreeing that there should be a balance, said in a certain type of lyric poem with serious content performers may want to keep themselves fairly contained but performers should still feel it.
“They can’t really connect to the ideas because they’re cut off from the ideas,” she said about performers who stick to the old school thought of very little movement.
She added that it’s the same with narration. She said most narrators feel they are not allowed to insert themselves in a more dramatic role or feel restricted due to their role as narrator. However, she suggested they pick up on the emotion in the content what they are reading and use it. It adds to the interpretation of the story, McGladdery said.
The adjudicator has been to the 100 Mile House Festival of the Arts six times, which is a little unusual for a festival of this type.
Alexander said it might be the only festival in the province that regularly asks some adjudicators to come back.
“It gives the chance for the students to say they didn’t do what she [McGladdery – or other returning adjudicators] expected them to do and they’ll do it next year sort of thing. The kids seem to really appreciate it.”
McGladdery also spoke of her own excitement about arts festivals when she was a kid, saying it was exciting. She said the festival is very important to 100 Mile House because it builds and keeps the grassroots scene alive.
“A big credit to the committees everywhere getting smaller and smaller because everyone is working but they hang in there and try to harness the teenagers who I think can give back and get their volunteer hours,” she said. “Such a gift to the kids.”