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Cast 560The cast and crew of Saugeen District Secondary School's Grade 11 and 12 drama students' performance of 'Free'. 

Hub Staff

Grade 11 and 12 drama students at Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) recently embarked on a thought provoking production of 'Free', a play by Canadian playwright Lindsay Price. The students performed five showings to the SDSS student body before they broke for the Christmas holidays. They recently invited Saugeen Shores Hub to their class to talk about their experience.

The story begins with two teenagers, Jack and Jill, who run up a hill and find a large pile of food with a sign that simply reads, ‘Free Food’.

The town where Jack and Jill are from had been struggling due to the recent closure of a factory, resulting in townsfolk having a hard time making ends meet and finding money for their next meal.

A stranger makes an appearance in the town at the same time the food is found and explains that all they have to do is share the food out equally. Although Jack and Jill come from a very close community, greed comes into play with the townsfolk lying and stealing, ultimately poisoning the food and themselves, tearing the community apart.

“In terms of their high school drama career this is often the first time they've done a serious play,” said SDSS Dramatic Arts Teacher, Leslie Turcotte, adding that up until this point the students had mainly done comedy, including writing their own scenes, with some involved in musical theatre last year.

Before the students started rehearsals for 'Free' they spent several classes discussing the issues of the play, which also included a personal life lesson on the power of greed.

“Mrs T, before we started, kind of duped us,” said Grade 11 student, Mikhayla Messer. “We were sitting here in the circle and one of the other teachers, Madame Dunlop, came in and said, ‘Hey, does anyone want this candy?’ and said, ‘I’ll just put it in the middle, whoever wants it can get it,’” said Messer.

She explained that what happened next was a lesson learned because, like the community in the play, greed took hold of the drama students. “I’m not kidding, maybe four or three people did not get up, everybody else swarmed to the centre and only a few got some candies.” said Messer. “You got shoved and pushed around and when you tried to grab some, someone would slap your hand... everything was thrown out of the window and it was just everyone for themselves.”

Grade 2-12 student Jordyn Lyoness said that the experiment, along with discussions prior to rehearsals made it easier for the class to understand the play. “I'm glad we did that looking back because it gives you more understanding and a more personal attachment to your character on how they would feel in that situation,” she said.

“We sat and we talked in conversation, saying in what context is stealing ok, is stealing ever ok, and then just morals of people. It was more getting into talking about all the feelings that were in the play before actually getting into it,” said Lyoness. “We also understood the play a lot better. If we had not done that we probably wouldn't have felt so strongly about compassion and stealing and so forth,” she explained.

Lyoness said they also spoke about the strong community of the town, despite there being a food crisis, before the pile of food appeared. “Now everybody just wants to take everything from each other, it’s all ‘fend for yourselves’, nobody cares about how other families are doing,” she said. “The community was ripped apart once the food came in.”

Lyoness, who acted the part of Jill, said that all the characters in the play had their own back stories as to how they felt and the way they acted. “I know my character, she felt very specific on she wanted everyone to share the food but she was also unnerved about it and she didn’t like all the fighting that was going on.” Lyoness explained that Jill was an exception as most of the other characters took to stealing the food, citing different reasons as a means of justifying their actions.

As well as learning about acting in a more serious drama, students said they also personally learned something from the story. “People need to show more compassion than we do, just in general, especially in tough times,” said Grade 2-12 student, Abygale Young. “Showing even the tiniest bit of compassion can change somebody else, like how they're feeling.”

The play also gave audience members food for thought. “I thought it was a pretty good lesson on how you need to pay attention to other people other than yourself because usually it will benefit you in the end if you have other friends helping you out,” expressed Grade 11 student, Raina Watson who watched the play.

Photos submitted.

Jack JillSDSS students Jack (William McKinnie) and Jill (Jordyn Lyoness) discover the pile of free food in their production of 'Free', a play by Canadian playwright Lindsay Price.

MayorThe town’s Mayor (David Waddell) addresses the townspeople.

Mrs StealMrs Steal (Fiona Miller) agonizes over her decision to sneak some food.

Sound Lighting Tech CrewThe sound, lighting and tech crew behind the scenes: Lucas Silva, Alastair Irwin, Tommy Hokea-Little and Mikhayla Messer.

BackstageThe cast of 'Free' backstage as they get ready for one of their performances before the SDSS student body.