As the finishing touches are being put in place on the small stage in the auditorium at Thomas Haney secondary, teacher Shelley Evans clutches a wrinkled printout of the scene from the day’s rehearsal. With two weeks until opening night of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated murder mysteries, The Mousetrap, her grip becomes tighter as a young actor stumbles to find his lines.
Patiently, she reminds the cast it’s time to tighten up the performance.
Quickly, the rehearsal continues, this time with far more focus.
For Evans, the shuffling of feet, the construction of sets, the laughter of kids, and even the occasional mistake is a welcome sound after last year’s play had to be cancelled because of the teacher’s strike.
But the unfortunate reality of politics not only killed the play, it meant a group of graduating students missed the opportunity to give one final performance in front of their peers and the community. After five years of high school, there would be no final curtain for the for students who had been part of Sightlines since Grade 8.
So Evans did something about it. For the first time, she’s welcomed back any graduating cast member who wanted to come back.
“I wanted to give them the opportunity to be part of this production,” said Evans.
Sightlines Theatre has a rich history of offering students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the arts. The not-for-profit program has been in operation for the past 23 years and has tackled everything from Shakespeare to musicals.
“It’s such a rewarding experience for the students and I didn’t want them to miss out. Any theatre company, not just ours, forms bonds pretty quickly. We’re a family here, so it’s no great surprise some of the kids are coming back,” said Evans.
Meaghan Lamberton was one of the 2014 graduating students who took Evans up on her offer.
Lamberton plays the not-so-likeable Mrs. Boyle in the 1950s classic, in which a group of strangers is stranded in a guesthouse because of a snowstorm and has no means of contacting the outside world. A murder ensues, and like all of Christie’s work, the plot twists and turns, leaving audiences guessing until the end.
For Lamberton, the chance to come back for one more performance was too much to pass up.
She also said the character of Mrs. Boyle played a big part in the decision.
“She’s a fun character. She’s a little snarky and arrogant. It’s a chance to step outside my own comfort level. I like to think I’m not like that,” she laughs.
Lamberton’s classmate Michaela Freeman also came back this year, but won’t be centre stage when the curtains rise. Freeman is volunteering her time as set director.
A member of Sightlines since she entered Grade 8, the 2014 grad said that overwhelming feeling of acceptance that theatre instills in her was the driving force behind coming back.
“Plus, once I heard it was a murder mystery, that sealed the deal,” said Freeman.
While theatre gave Freeman an avenue to express herself through her art, she also enjoys being able to pass on her experiences to the incoming students.
“I found working in the theatre helped grow my own confidence and I can see that with the younger students. It’s great to see that character being built from the ground up,” she said.
While graduating students were welcomed back, some newcomers are also contributing to the production
Grade 8 student Kyndra Burton landed the lead role of Mollie after her first-ever audition.
“I was terrified when I saw the entire script,” she joked.
But she said that fear quickly disappeared as rehearsals began. She said she understands how theatre becomes part of your school community so quickly.
“It’s not a competition. It’s a tremendous amount of work and everyone has the same goal.”
• Showtimes for The Mousetrap are 7 p.m. There will also be an afternoon matinee on Jan. 28 at 1 p.m.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and may be reserved for pick up by calling 604-463-2001 or at the office at the school.