Students at Hope secondary rehearse Chicken Bones for the Teenaged Soup on stage.

Theatre group zones in on competition

Hope students getting feedback during three-night festival

Alexandra Floyd and Carleigh Vanderkooi are practicing lobbing one liners off the stage at Hope secondary school.

“If you’re not popular, you’re nothing,” one spits out.

“Losing … stinks,” the other laughs.

“People who are different, make great targets,” is the next catch phrase.

They’re rehearsing a small bit in Chicken Bones for the Teenaged Soup, a play written by an Amercian teacher, Alan Haehnel.

The play is an grab bag of small skits that focus on teenaged life. But rather than the sometimes saccharine tone of the Chicken Soup series, Haehnel’s play is offbeat, with plenty of dark humour.

It’s one of four, one-act plays that Hope secondary is hoping to take to the Fraser Valley Zones at WJ Mouat secondary in Abbotsford on November 29. The zones are an annual competition that draws in theatre groups from Surrey to Hope.

But to help figure out which play, or plays, will move onto zones, they are performing in their own school for three nights next week. And they’re hoping the public will come out and support them.

Chicken Bones has 60 characters parts in total, to be played by a group of about 20 actors. It’s the longest play of the night, and sees the actors in many different roles.

In one scene, a group of girls are sitting in a self-help circle. Only, this self-help group is more dysfunctional than therapeutic.

“It’s 21 really short stories,” says teacher Jon Polishak. But the stories are all a little zany. “They really a kick in groin.”

Performing all four plays, three nights a week, will be good training for the students, he says. And one of those nights there will be adjudicators in the audience.

“They’ll give them feedback and comments,” Polishak says, to help the kids improve. And while it’s a great learning experience for the students, who range from Grade 8 to 12, many of the kids involved aren’t enrolled in theatre classes at HSS.

There were auditions in late September, and rehearsals have been ongoing after school ever since. For the few actors who are enrolled in Polishak’s regular theatre class, they’ll get higher participation marks, but it’s not a requirement of the class.

Still, there’s a lot riding on this festival. If they choose the right play, and work hard, they could move on from the zones to the Provincial Festival in New Westminster later in the school year.

While they admit they’re going up against some pretty heavy competition, especially from fine arts schools like Chilliwack’s GW Graham, they still have a chance to win.

And more than a good chance.

They went to provincials a few times in the past years, as runners up. And even though runners up are non-competitive, the Provincial festival includes workshops, and the chance to see the best theatre productions of the year.

The One-Act-Play Festival runs November 17 to 19 at Hope secondary school. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $6 each.

The money raised from the festival will go directly toward the theatre department at the school.

For more information, contact the school at 604-869-9971.