Girls in crash big part of Maple Ridge high school theatre production

Andrea Sitter and Jessica Smalls were helping Garibaldi Secondary School stages their next musical Legally Blonde

Students gather at the memorial site on Dewdney Trunk Road Monday afternoon.

Students gather at the memorial site on Dewdney Trunk Road Monday afternoon.

On Monday, a steady stream of students walked in and out of the theatre at Garibaldi secondary. Rehearsals for the high school’s spring production of Legally Blonde halted.

For the students, the theatre was and remains a haven, a place where they can seek hugs and comfort and mourn the friends they had just lost.

“Everyone knows it is safe to cross this threshold,” said drama teacher Cyndy Lacroix, who spent Monday trying to make sense of a real-life tragedy that’s hit too close to home.

All three girls involved in a head-on crash that killed two teens early Sunday were stalwarts of the school’s theatre program.

Crystal Weaver, who was killed a few days shy of her 19th birthday, had been studying in Prince George. While in school, theatre was her passion. She loved the stage and starred as Lady MacBeth in a school video production. Weaver was also a student aide, who mentored many younger students.

“She was woven very tightly into the fabric of this school,” says Lacroix.

Weaver’s friend, Jessica Smalls, who was driving the Honda, and Andrea Sitter, the second passenger in her car, had both returned to the school to help Lacroix with this year’s spring production – Legally Blonde. Garibaldi will be the first high school in Canada to stage the Broadway musical.

Sitter was released from hospital a day after the crash. Lacroix said she visited the theatre on Monday to tell the students she was OK.

A softball player who is about to sign a scholarship to study at a university in Texas, Sitter will be using the set she designed for Legally Blonde as part of her portfolio.

Many teens at Garibaldi knew both Weaver and Dawson Spencer, the 17-year-old who was driving the mini-van that slammed head-on into the Honda. He also died.

Lacroix knew Spencer like a son during his elementary school years.

“We have to be really careful with the way that we talk so we don’t hurt each other,” she says.

“The kids want to vent and be mad at Dawson, but they look to their left and there is somebody sobbing for Dawson.”

Lacroix is reminding students that grieving right now should be about the friends they have lost – not the event.

“I reminded the kids to not feel guilty,” she added.

For her, though, the show must go on.

The $20,000 production opens Feb. 21. and Lacroix hopes that continuing rehearsals will be cathartic for the students.

On Tuesday, rehearsals resumed.

“Once I get busy, I am able to have a reprieve from what I am feeling and this huge weight on my body starts to break away,” Lacroix says.

“I am hoping the kids will have the same feeling. As they were hugging me at the end of the day, we all agreed that we had to get back to work. That’s what Crystal would want.”