Wild Theatre’s upcoming show, The Optimist, has so far been the result of a series of saying “yes” to pretty much every idea that has come along. I’ve wanted to devise a show with the high school students for a while, now, and the opportunity presented itself, so here we are. There is a part of me that is totally excited at the prospect. The other part is completely frightened. It’s a great combination, actually.
The series of yesses began when I announced that the fall show would not be The Crucible as planned, but something devised by the group. One kid said, “I like Parkour.” Another kid said, “Yeah, I like to jump off things…” The next night, I wrote in my journal: “I should really brainstorm what I’m gong to do about the play.” I proceeded to make a list. “Silent Film” was the first thing I wrote. I stopped there. I liked the idea. I remembered the name of Buster Keaton from various stage combat workshops I’d been to in the past and how he was revered for his prowess in physical comedy. I watched some of his films, recognized his genius and used him as a starting point for our work.
Dave Hill is one of our vice-principals and he also teaches stagecraft at Mount Baker. I don’t know what I’d do without him. The morning after said meeting, I walked into his office and told him the news. Along with the new plan, I announced that for the set, I would need an in-floor trampoline, a diving board, a rope swing, and a door with some walls that a person could run up and fall down from. I fully expected him to either laugh me out of his office or tell me flat out, “No.” He did neither. Instead, he went down the list and talked about the things he could start working on. He gets the vision and his support is amazing. He leads a marvelous group of stagecraft students, all of whom are also game to this adventure. They have smart questions and fantastic ideas. We’re lucky to have them.
Our costumer, Penny Medig, had spent a lot of time researching The Crucible and had bought fabric to begin construction. I wasn’t looking forward to telling her that it was all for naught. Like Dave, she is invaluable to the work we do at Wild Theatre and she dove in, too. She wants the best for the students and she believes in our work. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
In the meantime, we’ve been generating material, rehearsing, adding, cutting and polishing the bits and pieces for this show. I am fortunate to have an excellent stage manager, Max, who takes down all of my notes, which I use to create scenes and stories. There are no words in this piece. The basic story is of a young man who wants a girl, but she has a boyfriend who’s mean and gets in the way. It’s simple, really. There is series of other characters, who, in a variety of situations, get stuck, angry, and eventually figure it out, much like all of us on any given day. Yes, there’s some Parkour. And people jumping off of things.
Several cast members come from our International program and many of the cast are brand new to the school this year. The show will be underscored with music. I’m not sure what that will look like yet. Recently, a student came to play his accordion for us. He is terrific, so expect him to make an appearance.
Sometimes I have everyone at rehearsal and other times I call a smaller group together. I am awestruck every time I arrive to see people there. The insecure part of me (part?!) expects everyone to run away from this. I don’t know why, exactly, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that this project requires faith. I’m impressed with everyone’s faith, and I’m excited about the possibilities and what we can achieve by opening night. Come and see it. We open on Thursday, November 26 at 7:30 pm at the Key City Theatre. There’ll be a reception that night catered by The Green Door. If you can’t make it then, we’ll be at it for another two nights after that.
Mary Hamilton is Drama instructor and Director at Mt. Baker Secondary School