Oliver message delivered with style

“Not only did the audience enjoy the stage events, the boys themselves seemed to thrive on what they were doing, whether it was biting down hard on an apple to make a crunching noise or speaking in a falsetto voice.”

May 16, 2015

I have mixed feelings when it comes to adult worship of child performers. Being famous is stressful enough for adults, even for those who are quite well adjusted. In the following piece, I am embarrassed and a bit ashamed for adapting this attitude that can ultimately lead to the crash and burn-out of young people. I have always tried to be honest as a writer. Following the band wagon is not something that rings true for me.

What does make me proud about this piece is the fact that I addressed the benefits of young people exploring the opposite gender through drama. This can be freeing for those not satisfied with the gender roles in which they have been slotted and it can be beneficial to all of us understanding and tolerating the opposite sex to a greater degree.

Another thing that stands out for me about this piece, is my reference “the DVD age”. Now a few years later, I am sure there are those who have not a clue as to what a DVD is. Renting DVDs, playing them on DVD players and watching them on television and movie screens was something many of us did daily for several years. This has faded out to almost nothing now with the event of Netflix and the likes. Why have to go to the trouble of sliding a DVD into a player when you can get movies and television by a mere few clicks on a computer screen.

Anyway, here is the play review:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Oliver message delivered with style

by Tanya Lester

Although I embrace the DVD age along with the best of them, it is still such a delight to see young people acting on the live stage in performances like Stagecoach Theatre Schools’ Oliver and The Black Knight.

I could not help but consider which among those on stage would go on to make careers out of acting as I watched these plays unfold at Artspring over the weekend. On this island we have come to expect fame to develop for a good portion of those who grow up here. It happens time and time again.

One who stood out in this way on stage for much more than the well-suited red costume that she wore was Arika Von Allmen as Nancy in Oliver . Like all the others in this musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ book Oliver Twist , Von Allmen warbled like a songbird.

Add to this her ability to inhabit her acting role, Von Allmen exuded an excitement at making what she was doing shine.

No doubt, The Black Knight, being a radio play, was less complicated to perform than the musical. It was the kind of play I would like to act in: one in which I could read from the script without having to remind myself of my inability to retain memory in mid-life.

Those in this stage performance seemed to consistently find that balance between becoming their characters without over- or under-acting. They appeared to be converting their inner hams (as in “hamming-it-up”) into art.

Sound effects (in this play about courageously risking everything in order to right a wrong), such as sawing wood and banging a hammer against a tin pot lid, kept things moving along. Each actor’s excellent timing did the same thing: knowing exactly when to step in with his sound or dialogue.

Not only did the audience enjoy the stage events, the boys themselves seemed to thrive on what they were doing, whether it was biting down hard on an apple to make a crunching noise or speaking in a falsetto voice. Directors Maggie O’Scalleigh and Adina Hildebrandt must be applauded for finding a way to harness this energy and make it work for everyone involved.

They also have to be given credit for having some girls play boys roles in Oliver while some boys played girls ‘ roles in The Black Knight. How freeing for these young actors to be given an opportunity to feel what it must be like to be of the other gender,  to explore the  feminine and the masculine, and to proudly present these roles without inhibitions.

The Black Knight also reminded us boys should be able to voice their fears as one did before  mustering  up the courage to search for a missing girl. Oliver, too, was an example of how girls can be out in the world living on  their wits like The Artful Dodger, well played by Reese Penney.

The street waifs in Oliver, when they swaggered on stage in their  very  appropriate costumes, reminded  me of those in the Slumdog Millionaire movie, which in turn  reminded  me that children all over the world are still forced to live on the streets.

We see this world through the eyes of Oliver Twist–in the difficult role that was tackled by Brianne Lavallee — who greatly suffered being an outcast. Whose lives,  in the end,  are better? Those who bully the poor or turn a blind eye to their needs or those who  develop a friendship bond with each other while celebrating  the freedom of possessing very little?

Charles Dickens has a tome of books on this theme. Discriminating against the poor is unjustified, he wrote time and time again.

We cannot be reminded often enough of this, just as we have to remember that being a child is fraught with growing pains that sometimes can be excruciating. Both plays help children know they are not alone in this suffering and help adults remember that growing up can often be a complicated, tough and even despairing time of life….fkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk


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