Drama festival puts young talent on stage

By Danielle Cossar
I. J. Samson Junior High
St. John's, Newfoundland

On April 19th to the 21st , the Avalon East School Drama Association held its 1999 annual High School Drama Festival. This festival, comprised of plays representing 15 schools from the region, took place on the main stage of the St. John's Arts and Culture Center.

The area's finest acting and stage talent was out in full force to celebrate the festival's first year at its new home. Last year, the festival was held in the theater of Holy Heart of Mary High, in St. John's. Feelings about the move to the professional theater were mixed. Many felt that the sheer size of the stage and the intricacy of its resources would prove overwhelming to the students, many of whom had never had experience on a stage any larger than that of their school auditorium. Others felt that the new venue, along with its amazing selection of equipment and its larger capacity, would provide an exceptional learning experience for all those involved.

Another impact of the move was a raise in ticket prices to cover the costs incurred by the larger venue. Tickets went from $4.00 general admission to $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for students and seniors. This, however, did not appear to have much effect of the crowds, as each night of the festival had a good turnout.

Of the fifteen schools who participated, there were four Junior Highs; I.J. Samson Jr. High, Mount Pearl Jr. High, Beaconsfield Jr. High, and Frank Roberts Intermediate. Frank Roberts was the only school this year not eligible for competition, due to the huge cast of over 60, which was well in excess of the official limit of 15 cast and crew. Amongst the high schools who participated was last year's regional champion, Prince of Wales Collegiate, along with Bishop's College, Beaconsfield Sr. High, Mount Pearl Sr. High, Gonzaga High, Booth Memorial High School, Baltimore High, Queen Elizabeth Regional High, Holy Spirit High, and last year's host, Holy Heart. Rounding out the week was an entry by the School for the Deaf. This was their first festival appearance since 1994.

Adjudicating the festival this year was the well-known local stage talent Dr. Clar Doyle. Dr. Doyle has been involved in many aspects of the theater, including acting, directing, writing, and teaching, both at local schools, notably Holy Heart, and now at Memorial University. When all was said and done, The School for the Deaf was awarded the coveted award for Best Play, which was well deserved. Their inspiring and heart warming tale of a deaf man's quest for self-acceptance, Butterfly Wings, was a fantastic success and drew many tears.

Although, unfortunately, not every play could win Best Play, and not every actor could be commended individually for their talent, the 1999 AESDA Festival was undoubtedly a great success for all those involved. For both the audience, and the actors and crew, these five days of drama will not be soon forgotten, and certainly have left a positive and lasting impression on all of us who were lucky enough to participate.