Drama, theatre and all things acting always seem to elicit a smile from those involved.
It’s augmented when there’s a strong community supporting the arts, which is the case at Crescent School.
In a room tucked away off stage in the school’s Centre for Creative Learning, the head of their drama department, Godric Latimer-Kim, is enthusiastically describing what drama does for the community.
Latimer-Kim started teaching at Crescent School a decade ago and helped lead the charge for expanding the drama program.
Now there’s a tight community, with Jen Johnson teaching drama in the lower school, Tim Evans in the middle and Christine Chorley working with Latimer-Kim in the upper school.
“Crescent is amazingly wonderful in that it is super collaborative,” Latimer-Kim says. “The entire drama department, quite frankly, works on all of the drama productions.”
Crescent just wrapped up That’s Absurd, which featured four plays from notable absurdist playwrights Morris Panych, Daniel MacIvor, David Ives and Christopher Durang.
It was one of two joint ventures Crescent School has with Havergal College. Latimer-Kim’s connection with Havergal’s head of drama, Risa Morris, has continued that collaborative mould outside the halls of Crescent School. On Feb. 5-8 the two schools will perform their second collaborative project, Anything Goes.
Crescent School, Latimer-Kim says, has an openness for thinking outside the box. She adds that head of the upper school, Colin Lowndes, and head master Geoff Roberts have supported her program, especially when she made the bold decision to have her students perform the risque play Rent. The play, set in New York City, tackles topics like AIDS/HIV and sexuality.
“I was blown away with the support, enthusiasm, and at first that came from our administration,” she says.
At WillowWood School, in the Lawrence Avenue and Leslie Street area, drama teacher Hilary Rahbar says theatre instils self-confidence in students from grades 1 to 12 who otherwise may not be given such an opportunity to grow. WillowWood provides individualized teaching to students who have struggled at other schools.
“A lot of the parents would never have thought their kid could memorize an entire script and perform on stage,” says Rahbar, who has been teaching at the school for seven years. “For the parents it’s a shock, because they were told that their kids would never get to this grade level.”
That sense of community transfers to the halls.
Rahbar says students will call each other by their character names, and there’s a strong sense of emptiness once a project like Aladdin or Alice in Wonderland is over.
But that feeling won’t be there for long. WillowWood is currently working on Beauty and the Beast, set for April 30 and May 1.
Meanwhile, Sterling Hall players are busying themselves with James and the Giant Peach, drama teacher Jeremy Nusinowitz says. The senior grades — 6,7 and 8 — perform plays where the students enjoy acting and the younger grades enjoy watching.
“We’ll give every single boy the opportunity to see the show. Younger kids will look up to the intermediate level boys who are putting on the show, and they get to look forward to the day they are in the play.”
Earlier this year the school performed Roald Dahl’s classic tale, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. As an all-boys school, Sterling Hall productions doesn’t shy away from boys playing female roles, exhibiting attitudes much like those seen in Shakespeare’s old Globe Theatre days, where men would play women.
“That’s what it means to be an actor,” he says. “The boys are more often than not willing to take that risk and jump right into the role.”
Back to Latimer-Kim, portraying the opposite sex takes courage, she feels, especially with Angel, the drag queen character from Rent.
“In all of my time here I’ve never seen the boys just dogging it, going through the motions,” she says. “When they’re in the show, they’re in it.”