Take a motivated teen, mix in some bitter Santa-napping elves and you’ve got yourself a play!
About four weeks ago Elmira District Secondary School student Brianna Bowman came home to find her brother Bret in distress: the annual Christmas concert at Linwood Public School where he attended was cancelled. In his final year at the school, the Grade 8 student was looking forward to the holiday tradition. That was put in jeopardy by the teachers’ job action, but his older sister found a way to help.“It started in our living room. I was joking around with my brother. I said, ‘oh, we should totally write a play, produce it and show it off to the community,’ and I guess it took off,” Bowman explained.
A former Linwood PS student as well, she was moved to help her siblings Bret and Kasja, 9, put on an event that has always been dear to her heart.
“It really upset my brother Bret. He’s in Grade 8, it’s supposed to be his best year yet, and it really upset me because it was the highlight of my Grade 8 year,” she said of the Christmas show.
Bowman got to work by gathering three other EDSS seniors to give her a hand: Rebeca Costisor, Leah Baxter and Michaelah Robinson. Together they enlisted the help of a few local moms and recruited a cast of approximately 50 students in Grades 3 through 8. In the mean time Bowman put pen to paper for the story.
“I originally wrote it in two days and it was 13 pages long. Then my script deleted off my memory stick and I had to re-write it and it took me four days. It’s now 21 pages long,” she said.
The idea is quite simple: the elves employed at Santa’s workshop are feeling unappreciated and kidnap the jolly man (played by Grade 8 student Connor Gerber) as a way to get even.
“But with the help of some detectives and some search-and-rescue they figure out where Santa is and save him just in time for Christmas,” Bowman said.
Gerber donned a red suit for the role complete with Santa’s signature belly. Main characters also include Mrs. Claus and a hodgepodge of morally ambiguous elves.
In between the comical scenes, a group of carolers in Santa hats stepped into the spotlight to perform holiday classics accompanied by piano music.
It was shown to parents and other community members on Wednesday night, where the audience was treated to dinner and a show. Instead of rows for the visitors the idea was to create a holiday atmosphere by seating people at tables laden with goodies provided by volunteers.
The show went off without a hitch, but getting there was something of a challenge for the teens and other volunteers.
After coming up with the idea nearly a month ago, Bowman consulted her mother Cathy who helped her speak to the Waterloo Region District School Board about renting the school after hours for rehearsal. Since teachers were not involved in the event, the endeavor had to be deemed as a separate community project dubbed The Linwood Drama Club.
“We had to wait until everyone was off school property around 4 p.m. We came back at 4 and got started,” Bowman explained.
With her own extracurricular activities cancelled, Bowman found the task to be an educational experience despite the challenges of balancing the play with school work.
“This is helping me kind of focus. It’s helping me with my English a bit, writing the scripts. I spoke to my English teacher about it and talked to my drama teacher and they’ve helped a bit. Sometimes it’s hard because I want to get my homework done but I also have to come to this.”
The group rehearsed twice a week for an hour and for two hours during the week leading up to the production, accessing the school gym and music room as well as the equipment and props. Bowman and her fellow organizers enjoyed solid community support from beginning to end with a team of parents and former students pitching in to help with lighting and sound.
Working together, they saved a Christmas tradition.