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Putting some drama into the EDSS reunion

EDSS students will try not to lose their heads over The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Front: Carli Jones, Sara Martin, Rachel Scott. Back: Elaura Clements, Autumnrose Fielding, Matt Lalond, Madi Paleczny.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
EDSS students will try not to lose their heads over The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Front: Carli Jones, Sara Martin, Rachel Scott. Back: Elaura Clements, Autumnrose Fielding, Matt Lalond, Madi Paleczny. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Elmira District Secondary School is turning 75; when an institution reaches a milestone like that, it tends to look at both the past and the future. Next weekend, the EDSS drama department will be doing just that with its evening of one-act plays, marking the school’s birthday with a new comedy and a revamped classic.

Truth Beware, by Grade 12 student Chelsea Wilson, is a comedy about what happens when a group of teenagers lose the ability to lie. After that, the Headless Horseman will rear his head for a new version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow adapted by Lindsay Price.

The plays are the result of the Grade 12 drama class’s summative project, which gave students an opportunity to write or adapt a play.

“Elmira has had a huge theatrical presence for 75 years, and we made sure that the reunion had something dramatic,” said DJ Carroll, EDSS drama teacher. “Both of our plays take place in a barn, and we laugh, because that’s appropriate for Elmira.”

He added, “You don’t have to be part of the reunion – it can be anybody from the town, we want people to come out to see these productions.”

Both of the plays come with pedigree: Truth Beware was a prizewinner at the school’s one-act festival, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was the school’s official entry in the Sears Drama Festival, where it picked up awards for its choral work and its stunts (notably those involving the horseman).

“The day that we did it in the competition was a storm day, so nobody from Elmira was able to come in and see it. We decided, ‘Why don’t we do it here at the reunion so our home town crowd actually gets a chance to see the play?’”

The anniversary performances will be the culmination of several months of hard work. “It does take a bit of time to get it prepared and going,” said Carroll.

“For the Sears play, we spent three months rehearsing. A very intense February, meeting three times a week for running things and rehearsing. Chelsea’s play was a little bit shorter – they’ve spent maybe two months, once or twice a week of practice time going over it.”

But Carroll adds the cast and crew have made the preparation easy. “The crew, they know their jobs; the actors know their stuff. It’s one of those things where we push to the students: ‘What would it be like if you had to go out and do this for a living? Well, you’ve got to treat it like that.’ Because the audience is going to pick it up: Is this a really good, professionally-done show, or is this an amateur show? I always tell the kids, ‘You want to give them a professional show every time.’”

What happens when an audience member says a show is professional quality? “When the kids hear that, they go, ‘Wow.’ And I feel wowed too,” said Carroll.

“I look at the kids and say to them, ‘Treat this theatre as your own; treat this space as your own. When you get out there, these people are your guests in your home, treat them that way, and make them want to come back. And that’s what we do: people leave and say, ‘That was really well done, we want to come back to see your next show.’”

Truth Beware and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow will be performed at EDSS on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. and June 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door, or free with the EDSS 75th anniversary package.

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