The show must go on for the drama students of Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School as they prepare to bring the community Poe: Dreams of Madness.
The show is to be held in the new venue of the South Cariboo Theatre and streamed online only, but students are still looking forward to bringing this dark and moody production to the community. PSO drama teacher Vincent Collins said while they’d like to have a live audience, current health restrictions make that impossible.
“I think for many of us this whole year has just thrown everything up in the air, but I’m always eager to take on a new challenge and figure it out,” Collins said, adding people will be able to watch the show and donate to the drama program virtually.
In fact, Collins said this virtual stream might help attendance. In the past, if weather conditions were unfavourable, fewer people have come out, he said.
Collins said they’re in the process of setting up a camera to film his students’ performances but added this is as all-new for him as it is the community. Overall, rehearsals are going well though they still have a lot to do in their last week or so. Collins said that both he and his students aim to create the most meaningful production they can under the circumstances.
Poe: Dreams of Madness is an award-winning play that came out a few years ago that takes some of Edgar Allen Poe’s best stories and reworks them into a coherent narrative. Collins said the essential idea is that Poe is dreaming and as the night of dreams go on they become more confusing, scary and dark. Ultimately, he has to escape the dream and figure out what it all means.
“Obviously Edgar Allen Poe writes a lot of stories about death and despair and it almost seems rather fitting, given the year we’re having with the pandemic, that this is the first year we’re not doing a comedy,” Collins said. “We’re trying something different. Maybe this town will love it or maybe this town will go ‘bring back the comedy next year’.”
So far Collins said his students have loved the production and found ways to make it fun for one another and their teacher. Collins joked he knows teens love talking about “sex, drugs, rock and roll and death” and that this play has a lot of death in it.
There are 18 students taking to the stage, Collins said, mostly from Grade 11 and 12 due to the cohort system but he also has two Grade 10 students.
One of the students looking forward to performing is Trystin Tallent, a Grade 12 student who said that Poe: Dreams of Madness will be his last high school production. Previously he’s been in Rumours and Ms. Bennet’s Christmas Party. He got into drama, he said, thanks to his mom, who told him he’s like an actor. Tallent said ever since he’s given acting a shot, he’s loved it and doesn’t plan on ever giving up on it.
“At first (for this show) I was a little bit stressed because we had a shorter rehearsal period but seeing it now, I think it’s going to go really well because the cast we have is working really hard. I think they’re all going to do amazing,” Tallent said, adding that they began rehearsing in late October.
Tallent enjoys the dark scenery and subject matter of the production and said it has a very ‘emo’ feel. Tallent plays both an old man and a hooded figure during the show.
Maryanna Elliot, one of the Grade 10 students in the production, said she absolutely loves drama class for all the people who are in it. Elliot said she’s found being a part of her first production to be awesome and enjoys getting to have fun with other people while acting.
Elliot describes this play as a weird one, confiding she doesn’t always quite understand what’s going on in it. Despite that, she said it’s really cool and has enjoyed learning how to perform in it in her roles as a police officer and violet guest, the latter of which requires her to rap.
“It’s cool because you can just be really weird in this class and there’s no judgment because there’s always someone a little weirder than you,” Elliot said. “I think everyone is enjoying the production and having lots of fun.”
Poe: Dreams of Madness opens on Jan. 19 and runs until Jan. 23 in the evenings. Collins encourages everyone to watch it online, noting that information on where to do so will be available on PSO’s website and social media.
“We feel very blessed that we get to do this because the Performing Arts Society has put their future productions on hold and we’re only able to do this because of how things have been set up with the school with the cohort system and the policies put in place,” Collin said. “Some of these kids have been waiting a long time to get to be on stage.”