Cast and crew of LSS’s Mamma Mia! asked to pose “silly” (Cole Schisler photo)

LSS theatre program strengthened following another year of community support

Perfoming arts are alive and well in Ladysmith

The cast and crew of Ladysmith Secondary’s production Mamma Mia! celebrated the success of their show at a cast party last week. They gathered in the multi purpose room to watch footage of their performance, and choose what next year’s production will be.

This is part of a longstanding tradition at LSS. Mamma Mia! was chosen at last year’s cast party, and the students were instantly excited.

Luckily, LSS was able to obtain the rights to the play, even though the Chemainus Theatre Festival had already gotten the rights, and shutout every other production company on the Island.

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“When the rights were released, the kids really liked it, so they were excited about doing it. And we had parents excited, because their kids were excited, and they came and helped,” LSS theatre teacher William Taylor said.

Taylor, alongside math teacher Dave Van Horne, and music teacher Rod Alsop, were the main faculty members organizing rehearsals, set design, and student auditions.

The trio provided a strong framework and guidance for the students, then it was up to the students to determine how the production would play out. Students were involved in capacity as directors, choreographers, and even stage craft.

“We had great people step up at each segment. Like in the band work for example, in vocal work, and set construction we had people come in from outside and help. Once all those pieces are in place, the kids have a lot to play with and work with,” Taylor said.

Within a single day of the sign up sheet being posted, there were pages full of students who wanted to be involved.

The play featured students from all grades at LSS.

“The whole rehearsal experience was just a joyous event,” Alsop said. “Kids were happy to be there, and when they weren’t singing they were just sitting and waiting. It was awesome.”

Rehearsals began in January, but students began ideating design features of the play at the beginning of the school year. Auditions were held in December, and scripts were given to the leads over the winter break so they could learn their parts.

As part of the rehearsal process, the students were treated to a musical theatre camp at Thetis Island. 35 students were in attendance.

This is something that LSS does every year with their theatre students.

Taylor said that the production benefited from an “excellent” parent group this year, and that LSS had built a significant theatre community over the years that played in to this year’s success. The continuity of LSS’s theatre program is something that makes Ladysmith known for producing high quality shows, and has led to LSS alumni finding success in performing arts.

LSS alum Kayla Lorette received a 2019 Dora Award for Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble for her work with an improv troupe, Coal Mine Theatre. She also has numerous acting and writing credits in television. Another LSS alum, Michelle Mylett stars as Katy in the hit Crave TV series, Letterkenny.

This history of success is something that LSS students are well aware of, but Taylor says students get involved with theatre for fun rather than fame and success.

“That’s not the main message, that’s not why they do it. They do it because they love working together. It’s a great experience. If you want to work in theatre, that’s a different thing. That’s not what we’re about… We do it because it builds community.

“It builds creative and critical skills, better communication skills in our youth, teamwork, problem solving skills, confident, resiliency. You can learn so much in theatre. It’s just a great educational opportunity,” Taylor said.

Taylor, Alsop, and Van Horne each expressed gratitude to the Ladysmith community for all the support the LSS cast and crew of Mamma Mia! received throughout the year.

“This is just part of our whole school spirit,” Taylor said. “It comes out of people being willing to work with each other… people just all come together to this. It doesn’t happen by accident. It’s because we have a very well functioning community.”

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