(Over the coming weeks we’ll be casting an eye over the performing talents of our community’s students and teachers, as we preview some of the upcoming school shows.)
This fall’s show at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB) is an original play, which uses humor to explore questions of acceptance and rejection; themes highly relevant to young people, and topical for the wider world. We asked writer-director Patrick Connolly to tell us more.
“Nothing but the Truth is a two-act comedy about the trial of a young girl named Elizabeth Warren,” Connolly said. “She is accused of possessing supernatural abilities, which are strictly outlawed in her strict and intolerant community. To prove that Elizabeth is guilty, the lawyer Paris Hale introduces three key witnesses – each providing a very different version of the truth. The audience must judge for themselves who they can trust or if they can trust anyone at all. At the heart of the show is are the themes honesty and tolerance, and the the idea that the truth is anything but black and white.”
We asked him where these intriguing ideas came from.
“I wrote this show with my partner (and fellow Theatre teacher) Angela Knowles. We were inspired by a number of sources. First, anyone who has seen or read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible will notice obvious similarities and references. Miller’s play is a much more serious depiction of a ‘witch hunt’, and our comedy explores the same core elements: an intolerant community that draws its lines of right and wrong so tightly that some citizens are labeled and cast out.
“We were also inspired by our amazing students. Because this is our third year as theater coordinators at CISB, we have developed a strong working relationship with many of our student actors. Knowing them and their skills so well, we were able to write parts specifically for our students – and to tailor the writing for their voices. Their talents and passion for performance are a constant source of inspiration!”
It must have been a great learning experience for them.
“An interesting component of this performance is that the entire cast (almost 30 students) is onstage together for almost the whole two acts. This requires a whole different type of skill: learning to act and perform even when your character is not speaking or directly involved in the action. So, learning how to listen and engage with the story in character for the length of the performance has been a struggle for many students, but it is a challenge that will benefit them in the end as performers.
“More importantly, we have had discussions as a group about the message we are trying to communicate in this play. After rehearsing and working closely with the script, our students were able to speak intelligently about the meaning behind the funny words and colorful characters. In this way, we are hoping our audience (like our students) take away ideas about the importance of honesty and acceptance even when others seem completely different than you.”
Was it difficult working with so many young performers?
“One of the greatest challenges we face as such a large group is working together effectively, in a way that’s beneficial for everyone involved and beneficial for the quality of the show. We have many experienced actors working alongside first-timers, so everyone has different needs in terms of preparation and rehearsal. Members of CISB StageCats range from Grade 6 to Grade 11.”
If you want to find out the truth about Elizabeth Warren, and see how the students rise to these challenges, tickets can be purchased at the CISB Front Desk, or from a member of the cast and crew. Tickets can also be reserved by emailing the director: email@example.com, and cost RMB 50 for adults and RMB 30 for students.
Performances take place in CISB’s auditorium on Friday November 25 at 7pm, and Saturday November 26 at 2pm. You can find out more about CISB StageCats from their blog: https://cisbtheatre.wordpress.com
Photos: courtesy of CISB