Arts students at Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener are upping their game this year for the annual gala showcase of dance, music, drama and visual art.
The gala, which runs for three nights next week, is produced by the Waterloo Region Integrated Arts Program Parents’ Association and is the primary fundraising initiative for the IAP, which relies on proceeds to fund program essentials such as instruments, sheet music, scripts, costumes, visual art materials and technical equipment.
Woolwich-area students Sydney Deveaux, Jenna Zettle and Parker Merlihan are some of this year’s participants. Deveaux and Zettle have been through the process before, but this will be Merlihan’s first time as a Grade 9 student. All three chose ECI as their high school based on the strength of the arts program and from attending previous galas.
The theme of this year’s gala is Where Words Fail.
Zettle explains how that will translate on stage.
“A lot of the acts are focused around trying to express emotion but without using words, sort of like with other means of doing it, through expression,” Zettle said.
Strings teacher and show director Kirsten Hunsberger-Shortt says more students have been stepping outside of the box for gala this year in their solo acts.
“There was just that vibe of people trying to push the envelope a little bit more than in past years which is great. We like to see the kids do that and we as staff are doing that as well,” Hunsberger-Shortt said.
The girls note it may be more difficult to get chosen as a solo act now because teachers want the acts to integrate multiple disciplines, but the audition process itself is good experience.
“Just knowing where you’re at and getting good feedback is really good especially if you’re considering doing it in the future,” Deveaux said.
To provide a more integrative show, students from different art majors have been paired up to perform. For example, fiddle players are performing with one of the school’s choirs for a piece, and then with dancers.
“We had to create our own composition to what the dancer wanted to portray in their solo part before they all get together and do their group performance,” Deveaux said.
Each of the dance solos is based around an emotion. Two music students have been matched up per solo dancer to perform before the full dance group’s piece. In previous years only the oldest students would perform their own compositions, but this year they’re pushing the students at all grade levels.
New this year, they’re opening the library an hour before the show for students to show their own short films.
They say the show will be anything but boring.
“This year is just really different stuff because again all the different groups are intertwined with each other. It’s probably something they’ve never seen before and the stuff that we’re doing, it’s like rock metal violin strings. People don’t see that all the time,” Zettle said.
Heading into his first gala, Merlihan says it’s been a lot of tech rehearsals and after school work, but it’s a fun experience. He’ll be performing with the Eastwood Chamber Choir, the Eastwood Concert Choir and Eastwood Sound Machine.
While he doesn’t want to give away the songs, he shares there’s a variety of genres.
“Most of them are modern, some of them are pop that we’ve been learning, one of them is a cheesy older 80s song,” Merlihan said.
With a strong interest in acting and music, he attended last year’s gala to see if ECI would be a good fit, and found it has been.
“It’s been incredible. Being able to do the arts every day and getting to practice your skills, it’s been really great. And getting to know all the people that are in there with you, you can bond with in other ways other than just sports or what’s happening in the news,” Merlihan said.
He’s considering auditioning for a solo in future years and encourages the community to check out gala.
“It’s not only you can see your kids and your relatives, but you can see talented kids doing very ambitious and very entertaining things,” Merlihan said.
Hunsberger-Shortt says there are no other schools with the level of arts integration ECI offers all the way from Grade 9 to 12 and you won’t find a show like this anywhere else in Waterloo Region.
“We have kids in Grade 5 and 6 who are already thinking about where they want to go to high school. If any families out in the townships or in the area are interested in checking us out this is a great way to see what we do, so I really encourage them to come and just check it out. It’s pretty representative of ECI as a place,” Hunsberger-Shortt said.
Gala 2016: Where Words Fail runs Nov. 23, Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 with the juried art show opening nightly at 6 p.m. and performances at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, and will be available in advance Nov. 15, 16, 17, 21 and 22 from 2:30 to 6 p.m. from the school box office or at the door one hour before each show.