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GISS Students Wow with Play at TIP’s Firehall Theatre
GISS Students Wow with Play at TIP’s Firehall Theatre
Posted on 12/22/2023
GISS students pose after performance at Firehall Theatre.

December 21, 2023 (Gananoque, ON) - That’s a wrap! Students at Gananoque Intermediate and Secondary School (GISS) have been working hard on stage and behind the curtain with the Thousand Islands Playhouse (TIP) to bring a fully formed theatrical production to life.

For the second year in a row, students have been absorbed in this real-world learning opportunity that saw “Somebody Catch My Homework” grace the stage at the Firehall Theatre in Gananoque to rave reviews. The team of students also welcomed local elementary classrooms to the theatre through the month of December, completing 11 shows in total.

Guided by the professionals in the TIP production department, students took the script and built the show from the ground up, learning about all the components that go into a production – front-of-house and hosting elements, to backstage features such as sound, light, costume, set design, set building, props, stage management, and directing, as well as acting techniques.

Nurturing and educating a fresh wave of theatre talent is an integral aspect of TIP's ongoing initiatives. Students have been taking part in week-long workshops, and exploring the diverse roles that exist within production companies. These experiential learning experiences are all aligned with Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) pathways, helping create avenues to college, university, and apprenticeships for UCDSB students.

Teacher Robyn Ableson explained how this real-world learning is eye opening for many of the students. “During the workshop weeks they actually go to the Herbert Street production facilities for the Playhouse, that's where all the costumes are stored, where the painting gets done, and all the sets get built. They get to see where the magic starts to happen. Often the students go to see a show and they say “oh, that's the show,” they don't think about all of the things that go into making it.”

Ableson added that many students who completed the class and a similar project in the last school year were hired by TIP for the summer.

This year’s play is a light-hearted, high-energy look at one eventful day in the life of fourth-grader Samantha, the new girl in town, who has lost her beloved cat, Corky. At the bus stop, Samantha meets three wacky new friends who welcome her into their class. The day is filled with adventure - from a run-in with an angry bull to a wayward wad of bubble gum, that finally leads to the rescue of Samantha’s wandering pet.

GISS Grade 12 student Savhannah Tomalty, who played the lead role, spoke of how the whole experience was not just about the learning, but about the relationships that grew from the process. “I was a little hesitant at first because I've never done this before, but I truly loved it. It was so cool to meet new people and I feel we really worked hard together, bonded, and I got to know everybody. Performing every day is such a reward. To hear the kids enjoy the show is awesome.”

“It's an experience that you won't get from anything else,” GISS Grade 10 student Keiren Velkov said. “Last year I was on the carpentry team, and we build the whole set. It's the amount of time and effort put into it that leads to so many more connections. You’re learning so much more than you would in any other high school course.”

After completing the Grade 11 course last school year, GISS student Isabella Paul was excited to jump into the Grade 12 course this fall. Paul took on the daunting role of Stage Manager this year, and explains that being part of the project is more than just gaining a high school credit for her. “It's one of the only courses that’s outside of the school. It's your break from sitting at a desk, it’s being up and moving. I've gotten a job here at the Playhouse from it, and it's opened my eyes to backstage theater. A lot of what you see in movies and even if you watch plays, it's just the actors. But then you’re able to look at the backstage bit through the class.”

The partnership is growing in popularity, and there are plans to ignite a passion for the theatre in even younger kids starting this February, with experienced GISS students welcoming Grade 5 and 6 students to their school to teach them what they’ve learned and to help brainstorm the 2024 production.

For media inquiries, please contact:

April Scott-Clarke
Manager of Communications
Upper Canada District School Board
[email protected]

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