By Peter McAlpine, Lakeshore Collegiate Institute
Every May, a sense of excitement begins buzzing through the corridors of Lakeshore Collegiate Institute in southern Etobicoke. That’s the time that one of the most accomplished and school-inclusive mainstage dramatic productions in the GTA takes place. This year, it’s Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that has staff and students alike focussed on final preparations in an exercise that involves more members of the school community than any other project.
Few would argue with the old adage that a school is a microcosm of modern society. From the literary gurus in their English classes, to the teams of student cooks whipping up their delicacies in their various tech courses, the average school is an interactive community where individuals focus on their own, specific proficiencies while still being part of a greater whole.
And no one would argue that the best school programs are the ones that leverage this reality to their advantage. While this is an accepted part of modern pedagogy, few school events can claim to have the sheer scale of cross-curricular involvement as the LCI mainstage drama production.
Over the past several years, the end-of-year performance has evolved into a massive project that involves no fewer than seven departments. Some might think that the production is limited only to the hard work of the second-semester Acting class (where many of the most important rehearsals take place). What they may not realize is the myriad contributions from other students and staff:
- the Set Construction course, where students get to essentially design and build a largescale structure that will be actually used by dozens of their fellow students in front of a highly discriminating and perceptive audience each night
- numerous Visual Arts classes, who paint and beautify the set once it has been built
- Cosmetology classes who are responsible for hair and makeup
- the Business class that runs front-of-house
- the CyberArts community, who design the poster and much of the promotional material
- Marketing classes who are responsible for getting the word out to both the school population as well as the local community
- the Guidance Department, which arranges matinees for grade 8 visits from feeder schools
- the GLE class that pounded the pavement several years ago delivering flyers and putting up posters in the community.
This year, the mainstage organizers have expanded their connection to the GTA’s educational community; even OISE student internships find themselves connected to the project, with no fewer than four student teachers helping out in various capacities. As a result, this is a project that involves more individuals and departments within the school than any other event in the school calendar.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. The mainstage production at LCI used to be comparable to one of the numerous after-school extra-curriculars offered at the school. But as the years rolled by, and the production became synonymous with the Spring semester and a point of pride for students and faculty alike, its dimensions became so much greater than one theatre department.
“This is not about Drama,” says Greg Danakas, ACL of Arts at Lakeshore and the long-time director of the mainstage production. “It’s about an entire school taking pride in a project and discovering the many different learning opportunities it affords. Where else can students see the fruits of their labour, the results of all their hard work, in such a real and tangible way?”
Another way that the mainstage production forms an integral part of the end of the school year is through its relationship to the outside community. “In many smaller towns, the ‘high school play’ is a major event, attended by many community members, though they may not go to the school themselves, or have children who go,” Danakas says. “The Lakeshore area, while located in a major urban centre, does have the feel of a small town – a ‘main street’ where most of the shops and services are located, a local community centre where people go to meet up, and a high school,” he explained
“And many people see the high school as a place where popular, engaging activities take place on a regular basis,” he continued. “What’s a better night on the town than an evening of live theatre?” Indeed, LCI’s mainstage play has, in recent years, become a highlight of the southern Etobicoke community.
As “fun” as extra-curricular activities are for both staff and students alike, ultimately they need to be about learning and growth, and those involved in LCI’s dramatic productions never forget the event. “A project of this size forces the various departments to take their blinders off, and see how their work affects the school as a whole,” Danakas added. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for growth and development.”
A school is made up of incredibly diverse groups. University-bound academics, college-inclined students investigating various professions and trades, and a multitude of students considering internships, co-op placements and other opportunities in the workplace all focus on their equally-important, but very different directions. Ultimately, the mainstage play is a celebration of diverse groups and individuals coming together. And perhaps the best thing that it can teach them is that they’re not so different after all.
The Lakeshore Collegiate Drama Society presents Pride and Prejudice, May 30, 31 and June 1, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. in the LCI auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors.