Mecca Glen students were treated to the Steadfast Tin Soldier Tuesday

Mecca Glen students were treated to the Steadfast Tin Soldier Tuesday

Tin Soldier stands at the ready at Mecca Glen

Students at Mecca Glen School received a taste of performance arts early this month.

Students at Mecca Glen School received a taste of performance arts culture during Alberta Opera’s interactive rendition of The Steadfast Tin Soldier early this month.

The play was staged Tuesday, Feb. 2 with a large group of students paying close attention to the act based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. Written by Farren Timoteo, the play brought three actors and a musician into the school who showed students the possibilities of a fun play using strong character acting and imaginative costumes. All four performers took some time to speak about the experience and how they manage 270 shows in a season and still keep things fresh.

Damon Pitcher played the Tin Soldier, among others, and he says with each show the actors try to find different nuances within the characters to inspire each other. “We find little things that we never realized before or we’ll do something in a different way that’s just a lot funnier than before.”

Seeing the audience reaction to a line adds to the excitement of the show, he added.

For Melissa Cunningham, bringing students into the play to help out makes for a fun, interactive experience. Each performance has 16 students who help out as set crew or acting on stage in front of their peers.

“They always keep it interesting,” said Cunningham.

“They will always throw you off or do something that’s really quirky. So that’s always really fun,” she added.

The actors have performed in front of hundreds of students and at smaller schools such as Mecca Glen, which is another way to find inspiration, explained performer Jaclyn Keppler. Each actor had to sing, perform, get ready for costume changes and ensure the crowd of students were engaged in the fast-moving play.

At one point Keppler and Cunningham dress up in spooky spider costumes. Keppler said the trick to ensuring kids are involved but not overly scared is to monitor their reactions and pull back the intensity if needed. She said there are times when kids enjoy being scared because they are involved in the story.

“It’s really fun depending on the size of the audience,” said Keppler.

Pianist Stephanie Urquhart adds the musical element of the play and her focus is to ensure actors are on target. Actors will try to keep her as part of the play. At one performance Cunningham saluted Urquhart just for fun.

One question the actors receive from students is how they learned to act and sing. Pitcher enjoys being able to promote the arts in schools. For young people looking to get involved in the performing arts, Keppler suggests they get into anything music lessons or take part in a choir or local plays to get a feel for it.

Cunningham grew up in Thorsby and she says there are always opportunities for theatre and performance, it’s just a question of trying new things.

The Mecca Glen performance concluded the 100th performance this season.