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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ecole Secondaire Chapleau High School students received standing ovations for performances in World War II production for Remembrance Day in 1987

PHOTOS ADDED ON APRIL 11, 2011. WRITTEN OCTOBER 2009

Just recently I received a message on Facebook from Derek Lafreniere recalling "You'll Get Used To It ... The War Show", by Peter Colley, a play about World War II that I directed at Ecole Secondaire Chapleau High School just prior to Remembrance Day in 1987.

 Derek was a student in my drama course and played a leading role in the production. He later served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Derek wrote: "I remember the Army play you directed that I was in. It was such a great experience. In addition, we put on one hell of a show if I may say so. If I remember correctly it was a fairly large production,singing, dancing etc..."

It sure was all that you write about it Derek and after a successful run in Chapleau we took it to Wawa for a presentation at Michipicoten High School.

As Remembrance Day on November 11 approaches it seemed a good time to bring back the moment that ESCHS students, staff and community members were involved in the production of Peter Colley's play. Colley noted that his play looked at Canada at war through the eyes of the soldiers themselves, adding that if at times it seemed they did not take the war as seriously as some people would think, "it must be remembered that our soldiers didn't take it that seriously either." When they weren't actually fighting, they took a break from the war.

This play was produced in conjunction with Branch Number 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Chapleau.

I directed many plays during my years at CHS/ESCHS, and each one was very special to me, but this one really challenged the cast as it combined many dramatic techniques including mime, music and dance into a play set in a time period which was not even a distant memory to them.

When I first read the play I was studying drama at the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, and it was a play I knew I had to direct for two reasons: it would place new demands on my students to reach beyond the ordinary in playing the respective roles, and because of the tribute it paid to Canada's ordinary soldiers in the ranks, including many from Chapleau. But they were not ordinary at all. They were the exceptional generation who left loved ones at home to serve. Some returned. Some, like my father, James E. "Jim" Morris, and other Chapleauites did not.

Twenty-two years after "You'll Get Used To It: The War Show" brought audiences to their feet in rousing standing ovations from the packed houses, I remember it like it was yesterday, and I am still in touch with some of the cast.

Writing in The Daily Press, reviewer George Evans, said that a "wonderful thing" happened at ESCHS. "For the older people there was bittersweet nostalgia for the years of World War II, and for the younger folk there was the impact of seeing war as it really was for the 1939 generation of teenagers. From oldest to youngest, the audience was caught up in the banality, the humor, and ultimately, the irreversible waste of war."

The outstanding company included Marcel Morin, Michel Sylvestre, Derek Lafreniere, Dean Harvey, Jeremy Comte, Christopher Ivey, Tara Leigh O'Hearn, Anita Hoffren, Andre Bourgeault, Kyle St. Amand, Gerry Servais, Kyle Videto, Laurianne Martel, Desmond Larocque, Donna Old, Annalisa Meyer, Michelle Meyer and Lori Brunette.

Margaret Rose Fortin, of the ESCHS teaching staff, did an incredible job as the music director, with Mrs. Ruth Godemair as the pianist. Members of the ESCHS Chorus included Gabriela Dell, Carolyn Hryhorchuk, Gerard Lalonde, Juliette Payette, Dave Fagan, Yvette Joyal, Desmond Larocque, Mike Holgate and Alison Wedekamm. George noted in his review that it was "impossible to overestimate" the contribution of the chorus to the emotional impact of the production.

Also greatly contributing to the success of the production was the awesome use of sound and lighting particularly in the battle scenes in the very capable hands of William Mitchell, Sylvain Bernier and Scott Keech. Video was done by Derek Woods. Costumes and makeup were looked after most capably by Yvette Joyal and Lisa Martel, and I must add that Mrs. Joyal pitched in to help with every aspect of the production. She was always available to help.

Set design was by Roxane Duhaim, while official photographer was Michael Heintz, prompter was Yvonne Ranger, and properties and stage assistant was Allison Berry. Rick Dell and Crystal Collins produced the program.

Production co-ordinator was Ross Hryhorchuk who noted that on the day before Remembrance Day there was also a special ceremony at the school to honour the members and veterans of Harry Searle Branch Number 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion as a simple thank you to them.

Thanks again to all of you for making the last play I directed at CHS/ESCHS among my most memorable moments from the years I spent at the school. My email is mj.morris@live.ca.

I am also on facebook.

This article appeared originally in my Chapleau Moments column in the Chapleau Express of October 17, 2009.

1 comment:

Paul Carson said...

Great pics seeing old familiar faces..

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet

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