From April 6-9 the St. James Catholic High School’s Drama Department will be performing original puppet shows for children.
“In a time where we are unable to gather as an audience, we are looking for ways to connect with our community and most importantly, give these amazing drama students an opportunity to perform for an audience - even if they can't see them,” shared Nancy Sanvido, drama teacher at St. James CHS.
From April 6 to 7, the grade 12 class will be performing their original puppet shows. Followed by the grade 11’s, who will be performing their original puppet shows on April 8 and 9.
Traditionally, drama students at St. James would hold an annual production where they would invite students from elementary schools in the Board to visit the secondary school and take in all the drama department has to offer. However, with safety protocols in place, Sanvido, along with her student teacher, adapted to the times and came up with the idea to perform original puppet shows virtually for the children.
“My student teacher, Alyssa Zaborowski, and I had several discussions on how Drama has had to adapt because of Covid. In a non-Covid world, I always invite schools to come and see a matinee performance of my spring production and my grade 11 drama class always writes and performs a children's play for our family of schools. None of these things were possible last spring or this year and these drama students have lost out on opportunities to perform for live audiences,” explained Sanvido. “Alyssa told me about a puppet unit she studied in university and quickly, the idea came to us that perhaps, this may be our opportunity for our students to actually perform 'live' via Teams. In creating a puppet show, we don't have to worry about the actors/characters wearing masks because...well...they are puppets!”
From there, the grade 11 and 12 classes were tasked with first creating a puppet – and then developing an origin story. Each of the students presented their puppet and accompanying story to Sanvido and Zaborowski and from there, the classes were set to further explore two shows in grade 12 and three in the grade 11 class.
“The first step in our process was for the students to create a puppet. Once they had done that, they had to give life to their puppet by giving them a name and a backstory. After that, I put the students into groups, and they had to create a script that would ultimately bring these characters together. Each script is different and unique to the characters they created,” Sanvido said.
In keeping with traditional practice, Sanvido reached out to the elementary schools letting them know of the opportunity to tune in. So far the response has been overwhelmingly wonderful with over 60 elementary teachers showing interest.
“I have schools from all over who have contacted me - from Arthur to the South end schools! I feel like someone from each school will be watching at some point!” shared Sanvido.
While the shows have been created with children in mind, grade 11 drama student Amelia Bush, explains that there are ‘Easter eggs’ throughout the productions that will bring a smile to everyone’s faces.
“Although this show is directed towards a younger audience, my peers have worked towards making the performance funny for all with some added jokes that older people will understand. The puppets are so enchanting that it makes anyone feel the magic of being a kid again,” shared Amelia. “I think it is very important that during this stressful time, having a break to feel young again and have a good laugh can really impact someone who possibly was in need of that smile.”
Although the process for creating a puppet show has been different then what Amelia has experienced in the past, she along with her peers have really enjoyed working through the new format.
“I have been in a few productions, however, this is my first time being in a production during this pandemic. Being able to get around the pandemic and still find a way to create a show is exhilarating. Watching my classmates be creative and coming together to share ideas for this performance is so amazing to watch,” said Amelia. “This class is so unbelievably gifted and artistic, it has been fascinating to watch my peers start with nothing and work together to create something incredible. I am so excited to see what my classmates are going to come up with for these puppet shows!”
And she is not alone. While they have had to adapt to a new process, the students have made the most of their situation and thrived with the adjusted opportunity.
“This process has brought a genuine excitement in my classes. They are so excited to be able to perform for a 'live' audience. These are all senior students, so they are all here because they choose to be, not because they need an art credit. They are eager to always do their best on stage which ultimately, for a teacher, is pure joy,” said Sanvido.
All Wellington Catholic elementary classrooms are invited to tune into the live Teams events airing at 11 a.m. from April 6 to April 9, or will be able to watch the recorded production at a later time. Please reach out to Sanvido for access to the productions.