Holy Spirit High acting troupe taking show to provincials this weekend
By Mark Squibb \ May 5, 2023
Seventeen Holy Spirit High students are representing the Metro region this weekend at the Provincial Drama Festival being held in St. John’s from May 4 to 7.
“Sometimes we don’t give enough credit to the students,” said Holy Spirit teacher Matthew Hicks. “But by giving them the opportunity to do these kinds of things, they really get to show you what an amazing bunch of people they are, and what they can do.”
For the Metro Regional Drama Festival, held this March, the drama troupe performed ‘Conflict,’ a story about a man so fixated on a cantaloupe, he develops a relationship with it. Things get a little meta when the narrator steps onstage to have a chat with the story’s protagonist.
“It’s definitely an interesting piece,” said Hicks, laughing.
The festival was cancelled the last number of years due to the pandemic, so for many students it was their first, and last time, being able to participate in it. Other students have some background in performance.
“And of course, as per usual, before the performance they had butterflies and they were concerned about how well they were going to do, but the minute they finished their performance that night, they had so much energy and were so happy with themselves,” said Hicks. “They thought they did an amazing job and they looked at me and said, ‘Are we going to be able to do this again?’”
Although Hicks didn’t know it at the time, the students would indeed earn themselves a chance to perform again, as they were selected to compete in the provincial competition shortly thereafter.
In addition, Holy Spirit’s two leads, Jane Metcalfe (who played the narrator) and Dane Reid (the protagonist) took home best actor awards, while the tech team earned Best Lighting in their category.
“This is something they got to take ownership of,” said Hicks. “And that’s the big thing for a lot of them, is the fact that they were able to get together, take a play, put it together, work with each other, learn some skills, and, most importantly, have fun again. And that’s such a big thing. I’m happy that we get to represent the Metro region in the provincials, but I was happier the minute they came off the stage and they were almost in tears because of how happy they were to be doing something again.”
Hicks said that awards or no, the festival and events like it are important for students, especially post-pandemic.
“The last couple of years have been really rough, and being able to do something again for a lot of students was really amazing,” said Hicks. “It’s really helping bring back that sense of normalcy that they didn’t have for a couple of years when it came to organized events.”
And while many students will not pursue careers in the arts, some likely will, and participation in the festival provides all the students with an opportunity to grow and learn outside the classroom.
“This was a way to illustrate to them that ‘I can do really cool things if I put my mind to it, and if I put myself out there,’” said Hicks. “I had students who tried out and didn’t know whether they would get a part or not, or whether they would be involved or not. And to see that growth in that short amount of time is amazing, and it’s one of the reasons I’m an educator. I love seeing that growth… By having these activities and events, you get to see these kids flourish.”
And while all that sounds good on paper, it’s not unusual for some youths — and adults as well— to say they could never perform in front of others. Stage fright, after all, is one of the more common phobias.
Hicks advised in those cases it’s best to dip your toe in the water first, and if feels okay, keep going.
“It is really hard to put yourself out there,” he admitted. “It is hard to put yourself out there because it leaves you vulnerable. But sometimes the best things we can do in our lifetime is because we took those chances. And I’m not saying you have to jump off the deep end, like if you’ve never done a performance and start gunning for the main role. Maybe you get involved with the backstage crew and help put the show together. And then maybe next you want to try out. Maybe you’ll want to try for a speaking part. But you’ll never get to know that feeling if you don’t put yourself out there.”