October 25th, 2020

Audience participation essential to Churchill play


By Mabell, Dave on November 20, 2019.

Grade 12 actor Megan Mitchell takes aim with the cast of Winston Churchill High Schools production of Escape from Peligro Island, set for today until Saturday at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

Audience alert: Do not disable your cellphones!

Those phones will be essential in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, when Winston Churchill High students stage their latest production.

Running tonight through Saturday, “Escape from Peligro Island” places the protagonist on a remote but populated island. But what happens after that is pretty much in the audience’s hands – literally.

Playgoers will be asked frequently to decide what Callaway Brown will do. Will it be this? Or that?

Each time, audience members will be invited to cast a vote using their phone. The results will be known quickly, and the action will resume.

So there are about 70 possible endings, co-directors Emily Welch and Greg Woolcott explain.

Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer prepared scripts to cover all possibilities, adds Welch – and drama club members had to memorize all of them.

While the script runs to about 180 pages, she says, perhaps just 60 of them are followed on any particular performance. Will Callaway meet a vampire? Meet a talking horse? Or develop “super powers” to fight crime?

“The kids are excited to do something different,” Woolcott says. An audience interaction piece is quite a change from the comedies and dramas they’ve been part of before.

Students started rehearsals in September, he says, and they’ve been meeting after school day by day to learn all the variations. On weekly “work days,” he adds, they’ve created a myriad of fanciful props to match those outcomes.

The cast of 17 will be moving the show’s sets and props as the action proceeds, and making costume changes on the fly as well.

There’s music involved, too. By breaking into song, Callaway could try to befriend someone who might otherwise become an adversary.

Not surprisingly, Woolcott says Churchill students and staff are looking forward to seeing what happens.

“A lot of their families are excited, too.”

This morning, cast members will have elementary school children as their first audience. But the show opens downtown today at 7 p.m., with tickets available nightly at the door, $10 for adults or $8 for students and seniors. There’s also a matinee Friday at 1:30 p.m., with all tickets priced at $5.

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