Annual Giving Brings Theatre to Life

The 2020-21 Annual Giving campaign launched this week. You can expect to receive a brochure in the mail over the next several days highlighting some of this year’s priorities. To put a spotlight on how your generosity last year had a direct impact on our students’ learning, we spoke with Senior School drama teacher, Keira Louis. She shares how the purchase of new equipment for the Odette Tognetti Theatre has created many possibilities that enhance the theatre experience for performers and audiences alike.

Q: Please describe how the installation of the new projector screen impacted the school’s musical this year?
A: The projected, full-sized images covered the entire back wall of the stage, providing each scene with a digital backdrop which conveyed an entire location, such as outside the Addams’ House, or more specific settings, such as Morticia’s boudoir, all full of vibrant colours and moving special effects, such as rain or a crackling fire, with one simple click. Not only did this produce an amazing aesthetic experience for the audience, but it also enabled York House School to save time and money on the construction of huge set pieces. The installation of this projector has, in my opinion, raised the level of theatre produced by York House School to the highest degree, and I am so excited by the endless possibilities this opens up for drama students.

Q: In terms of learning about musical theatre, how did this help students and the production crew?
A: Students involved in the production crew quickly learned that with digital projections their jobs became somewhat easier in many ways (no huge physical backdrops to create and move around throughout the show), but a little more challenging in others. Often a set piece had to be perfectly aligned with the projected backdrop to convey a realistic setting. For example, where The Great Hall stairs ended on the projection, the real stairs continued on stage and by tilting them at a particular angle, both the digital and physical stairs aligned and the effect of a complete staircase was achieved. The actors also learned that the staging of a scene (or the positioning of themselves on stage) would often depend on what was on the projected image in that scene, so that the audience was able to focus on both the actors and the important elements in the digital backdrop. Our projectionist learned about timing special effects in the projections with particular song lyrics or dialogue from the play; our Sound Operator learned to play Sound FX at just the right moment for a digital image that required sound (such as an explosion); and our Lighting Designer discovered how challenging it was to design lighting for the actors at the front of the stage, but keep it dark enough at the back for the projections to look crisp and not be washed out. So all in all, there was a lot of learning to be done with the addition of the short-throw projector in this production, but I’m so proud of the students for diving right in and achieving such a fabulous show!

Q: Lighting in the theatre has been upgraded over the past few years. Can you explain how this positively affects your work and students’ performances?
A: Lighting plays a tremendous role in theatrical productions of any size, so without quality lighting, shows can appear amateur and cheap. With great lighting, and a variety of good quality coloured lights, we are able to design shows that blend colour and focus to provide just the right effect for shows, portraying the time, place, mood or tension of a scene clearly and effectively. In addition to using lighting for the annual York House Production, there are other events such as Choir and Band performances, Graduation, The Candlelight Ceremony, and Drama class performances. With quality lighting, not only are we giving the audience a wonderful sensory experience, but at the most basic level we are making sure our teachers, conductors, directors, and performers are put in the spotlight.

Q: Do you have anything to share with parents and members of the community who helped provide this support through their gifts to the Annual Giving Campaign?
A: I would like to sincerely thank the parents and members of the community who helped provide this funding through Annual Giving. I am so grateful for your generosity, and when you attend the theatre again in the future, my hope is that you can take a moment to realize just how much your support has helped York House School produce top-quality events and performances. We are extremely thankful to you.