When a group of eight homeschool students hit the stage next Wednesday at Trafalgar Middle School, it will be the culmination of one of the biggest challenges of their young acting careers.
For three nights the students, all part of the Kootenay Lake school district’s Homelinks program, will present a slightly abridged version of the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest. And while all the cast members have previous dramatic experience, the two hour comedy of mistaken identity and snappy witticisms has stretched them like never before.
“There are a lot of lines,” says Grade 7 student Anika Nykanen, when asked about her biggest challenge with the material. “It’s a big play.”
But trying something different was much of the appeal for the group, which ranges in age from 12 to 16 years old.
“They do a lot of theatre with younger kids, and they came to me and said they wanted to be challenged,” explains director Paul Prappas.
“It’s about giving kids an opportunity to grow and try something they wouldn’t normally get a chance to do. It’s not often you get to do something like Importance of Being Earnest. Most of these kids have been doing things like Cinderella and Snow White. So it’s a challenge for them.”
Though Prappas has edited the show to bring down the run time, Grade 9 student Robyn Locke says he’s also asked the cast to focus on aspects of acting they haven’t looked at before.
“In previous years our stage directions have been more relaxed, so it’s just you do whatever you feel like you should do,” she says. “But for this one the director, Paul, he’s really done a lot of the blocking and we’re working on the actual characters. Which is a lot more fun.”
Nykanen also says exploring her character’s motivations has been one of the most appealing parts of the process.
“It’s not just doing a play, it’s getting into it,” she adds, “which is fun.”
Prappas says he’s also impressed with the dedication the kids have brought to the show.
“They came to me to do this project, so they’re coming to it with a willingness and commitment, as opposed to sometimes when you go into a class and say okay, I’m going to teach you something and they don’t want to really be there,” he says. “They want to be doing this, and some of them are really talented.”
The Importance of Being Earnest runs May 25 to 27 at 7 p.m. at Trafalgar Middle School. Admission is by donation.