by Connie Brill
Over the 2016/ 2017 winter session of the Cortes Youth Program, the group undertook an exploration of ecosystems connectivity. Script development began with a weekend workshop that included watching Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and improvisation around a Precipice Theatre script, Stumped, a mystery based loosely on Christie’s story, that looks at the domino effects of deforestation. Stumped is set at an isolated lodge. Guests – people with forest interests and trees representing forests – have all been invited by an mysterious host. One by one they disappear.
The Cortes Youth wanted to tell a similar story, using species at risk found in the Children’s Forest along with local invasive species. To create a West Coast sense of isolation they determined the story should take place on a ferry caught in the fog. After a brainstorming session around characters, we began to further develop these characters and scenarios through guided improvisation. By the end of the weekend a very rough outline, with too many characters and scenes, was in hand.
It was time to ‘weed out’ the repetitive or unnecessary elements of the script. First, we consulted local experts on species at risk in the Children’s Forest, invasive species on Cortes, and Latin names of these species. The Ensemble then chose to use a form of the Latin names for their characters. We then researched ecosystem dynamics; how the loss or addition of one species may impact other species. From this research the Ensemble created a solid list of characters and identified a series of possible scenes.
The next few weeks consisted of the Ensemble improvising scenes and characters, followed by Connie and Ashe spending an evening a week refining the script. A first draft was ready in early February. All youth knew they would be a part of the cast if they so wished but for the experience we held auditions.
We now had a deadline of May 30, 2017 as performances on Quadra and in Campbell River were confirmed. With an 18 youth cast, an intense rehearsal period followed. Sets, costumes and music were added to the mix, with interested youth dabbling in the design and creation of these elements. And then it was show time!
Each performance was well received and had a question period at the end of the show. A highlight of the play was the cast of characters: Milo and Celia AKA mycelium were the two detectives on scene, Thuja was cedar tree – the great protector of the land, Ardea was the easily frightened great blue heron, Gnoma – the ever-watchful pygmy owl, P. lotor the boorish tough guy AKA raccoon, Chordeiles, the simple life nighthawk, Oncor AKA salmon – the local activist, and Castor – the hard working beaver!