Guns boomed in the distance as Diamond Willow Middle School students stormed through Germany and held down the home front during the First World War.
The middle school stages a play, Tommy’s Homecoming, and dramatic poetry reading for parents Nov. 7. The performance was repeated for the school’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 8.
Tommy’s Homecoming, written by Kevin Ferguson, the school’s drama teacher, is about an Alberta Prairie boy who goes off to war. His family, father, mother and three sisters remain in Canada.
Tommy often sends letters home about how safe and happy he is, and how he’s nowhere near the front lines. However, the letters are lies.
One night, during a raid, Tommy is killed.
Through dreams and premonitions Tommy’s mother is able to see her son one last time and say goodbye. His whole family accepts his death— except for one sister, Samantha.
Tommy Ramsey was played by Connor Hoffmann; his mother, Esther Ramsey, by Kristen Riguidel; and the sister in denial was played by Jennifer Nicholson.
“It was really fun,” said Riguidel.
“That’s pretty much the way to sum it up,” added Nicholson.
Riguidel said throughout getting ready for the play during her performances she was able to slip into the character of a grieving mother—an emotional job for her.
“There were parts where I was really sad. When I was saying goodbye it was really depressing,” Riguidel explained.
Playing the part of a grieving mother made her think about the mothers who would have actually lost sons in battle and how they would have felt.
“You’d miss your son a lot, and you’d wish you were there with them.”
Nicholson said playing the part of a sister in denial give her a new perspective about family members who would have gone through that experience.
In the play Nicholson’s character makes a promise to Tommy, no matter what she’ll never stop believing that he’ll come home. “I think some would actually do that, just hoping and waiting in their minds just to see them again,” she said.
However, Nicholson said her character should have believed the telegram because relief would never come to her if she didn’t lay down her denial.
Hoffmann said Tommy’s Homecoming made him more appreciative of the soldiers and of their parents who spent four years never knowing if their sons were about to die.
However, he did like being in the play and enjoys drama class. “It’s pretty fun. You get to be someone that you’re not. You get to be anybody in the whole entire world.”
Hoffmann believes the play went well, although there was a lot of dialogue to learn. “It probably wouldn’t have been that good if we didn’t have such a good director, Mr. Ferguson,” he said.
Ferguson was equally pleased with his students’ performances. “I’m always amazed at what you can get out of a young kid.”
The play ties in with the Grade 8 students’ Vimy Ridge unit and is applicable because it centres on a boy from Alberta.
“It was to give the kids a kind of personal experience,” said Ferguson. The bond between a grieving mother and her son was the same during the First World War as it would be with a soldier from Afghanistan, he explained.
Ferguson said the poems from the dramatic reading followed the same storyline as the play, and all the poems where written by Canadian soldiers.
One poem not included in the reading was In Flanders Fields. Ferguson wanted to show the students there were other Canadian war poets besides John McCrae.