It's showtime for Summerland Secondary

After nearly a year in the making, it’s finally showtime for Summerland Secondary School’s production of “Anastasia.” “Each year we choose the play in May and we have auditions in June and then the cast members study the heck out of all their lines and songs and we come back and start again in September,” said teacher and director Heather Ayris. “It’s a great show, it’s got incredible music and this year I have actors who are really great vocalists. It’s an extremely well-trained group I get to work with, these casts and crews. It’s taken awhile to establish that culture but it’s certainly here in spades now.”

The musical is set in the 1920s and the audience is transported from the twilight of the Russian Empire to Paris. A young woman with the help of a conman and ex-aristocrat set out an epic journey of discovery. The unique aspect of this show by the school’s senior acting class is there are actually two full sets of cast and crew who perform on different nights. “We have about 70 kids involved this year and when people come in to buy tickets they have to get two sets because they want to see each cast,” said Ayris, who estimates as many as a third of the school’s students participate in some way. “We get a lot of support from the school and it’s lovely the way the community wraps its arms around us and supports us.” It is important for her that all the work on and off stage be done by the students themselves, including turning the show over to her student assistant director. “At that point I have nothing to do except maybe to tell them to move the volume up and down or I run for cough candies and muffins when the kids don’t eat enough,” said Ayris. “This is a 10-month project, so this is a huge commitment on the part of the students for sure.” She also encourages her young actors to explore their own interpretation of the script. “I’m not interested in them replicating anyone else’s performance. I’m just trying to teach them how to create their own artistic expression for their character,” said the director. “They have to include certain things in the script but anything that isn’t they are free to develop that on their own.” The show runs Feb. 15-18 and Feb 22-25 and starts at 7 p.m. each night at Centre Stage Theatre. Tickets cost $18 each and are available in advance at the Summerland Secondary School office.

Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald