BY EMMA-GRACE CALLAN-BENNINK
5 actors, one stage. On Thursday, February 28th, Anna Mokina, Saad Khan and Amber Siddiqui, Emma-Grace Callan-Bennink took the stage as characters from the play Bivio Itineris. This year, the National Theatre School Drama Festival (or NTS) was held at Aldershot high school. The play, written by Catherine Pammenter and Emma-Grace Callan-Bennink, was a 20-minute one-act play featuring the story of a group of friends in their last year of high school, struggling with growing apart and having trouble staying connected.
The crew included Travis Mont as a light operator, Eli Vodarek-Berman operating the spotlight, Haika Aaqil as the stage manager and Sabrina Mateen as the sound operator. The entire enterprise wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Ms. Smith, MD’s drama teacher, who organized the entire trip to NTS.
It was an early start for the cast and crew, as they had to depart school at 7:30 AM However, due to the extreme weather, the bus was delayed causing a slight panic within the cast, as the reason they had to arrive so early to the festival was their allotted time practising on the stage to familiarize themselves with the lighting board and general environment. Luckily, Aldershot was accommodating and allowed MD to extend their time so that instead of ending at 10:30 it ended at 11:00.
After the tech run through, there was not much to do between the end of their tech time, and the performance at 7:00 PM. MDHS was assigned a classroom they could spend the day in. The cast and crew spent their time at Aldershot High School, trying to relax before their big performance by watching Vine compilations and Shane Dawson videos.
Finally, performance time arrived. The cast made their way down to the theatre to watch performances by Georgetown District High School and Chrisholm Academy-both of which were amazing.
Milton District’s performance was the fourth and final of the night. During the third performance, the cast and crew went to the classroom that had been their home for the past eight hours and did a final read through and warm up exercises to get pumped up from the show.
Then, it was the moment everyone had been waiting for: show time. The cast took the stage as the last group to perform and it’s safe to say, the house was brought down. As the play was written by two students from MDHS, using the modern day sense of humour and slang, there were plenty of moments where MDHS was rewarded with laughter from the audience. In the play, tea was spilled, shade was thrown, and Ru Paul’s Drag Race references were made. The performance received a warm reception from the audience.
After the performance was the most nerve-wracking part of the day: private adjudication. 25 minutes in a room with the adjudicator, Andrew Lamb, who told you what you did well and what could be improved.
The adjudicator gave the cast and crew great feedback. He enjoyed the references to “tea” and “shade” and even started up a conversation with the cast about drag queens from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. In addition to giving MDHS students praise for their characterization, he also gave them tips on what to improve upon.
After a long day of 18 hours and what seemed like a million Uber Eats orders MDHS left to go home at 12 AM.
That isn’t the end of NTS though. Following the festival, on March 2nd, a banquet and awards ceremony is held for all the students that participated in NTS. The banquet served delicious food and provided the opportunity for great memories to be made amongst the MDHS cast.
The awards ceremony was held in the auditorium of Aldershot High School. MDHS had entered the competition, not with the aim of winning, but of representing MDHS well, having a great time and creating memories. So when it was announced that the cast won “Outstanding Performance as an Ensemble” they were shocked but ecstatic as they ran up the stage to claim their award. Though they didn’t advance to regionals, they are already thinking about their play for next year, as they are planning on dominating the competition next year.
All students involved in NTS are sad that the experience is over, but, in order for something to be missed, it has to be truly great, with NTS definitely was. Everyone is looking forward to competing in it again next year!
Finally, here are some quotes from the cast of Bivio Itineris, showing what an incredible time they had.
“The cast and crew worked very hard together over the weeks leading up to the performance and did their best during the show. Everyone was very friendly and maintained a positive and welcoming atmosphere. NTS has given us a space to express our creative side and to make new, life long friends! A HUGE thank you to Ms Smith for helping the students find their passion.”
– Anna Mokina
“NTS was truly a memorable experience that gave me one of the best memories in high school. It was very much an influential moment in my life that allowed me to learn the true magic of theatre and become friends with kids from other schools. I left NTS with big plans for next year and how we can do even better!”
– Saad Khan
“This was such an incredible experience and I’m glad for the friends I made along the way.”
– Catherine Pammenter.
“It was an amazing experience and the cast made memories that we will definitely never forget. We really bonded as a team and got to make connections with dozens of students from other schools in Halton and make some really great friends.”