The next generation of thespians flooded the halls of Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Friday to participate in a workshop and take a tour of the state-of-the-art facility.
About 100 local high school students from Niagara Catholic District School Board were welcomed to the downtown Brock University venue for a mini-invitational meant to offer a taste of life as a Dramatic Arts student.
The teens, from six Niagara high schools, worked with Brock Dramatic Arts students throughout the morning to write and prepare short scenes based on the theme of lending a hand.
The scenes were then presented in the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre in the afternoon.
This is the first year the yet-to-be-named drama festival has been held, though there are hopes to see it continue annually and eventually expand, said Joe Norris, Chair of Brock’s Department of Dramatic Arts.
“I’ve always wanted to bridge the gap between the University and local high schools,” he said, adding an event of this nature provides the perfect opportunity to invite students through the doors to see what Brock has to offer.
“Building stronger ties between the high schools and the University is a win-win for everybody.”
Norris said the day was an opportunity for the teens to get to know the facility better, while also getting introduced to faculty and students involved in the programs they may be eyeing for the future.
“For students auditioning to become part of the Dramatic Arts program, we have a full-day invitational,” Norris said. “This gives them a small taste of what that would be like.”
Niagara Catholic Arts and Student Leadership Consultant Teri Cristelli said she’d like to see the partnership and the festival continue to grow over time.
The board was looking for new ways to engage its drama students, she said, and when Brock was approached about a potential collaboration, it was welcomed with open arms.
“It has become an exciting day for our kids and for our teachers,” she said.
“It’s a chance for our students to perform in a professional theatre setting, an experience they may not have otherwise.”
Melanie Contini, a drama teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in St. Catharines, was hopeful the visit might entice some students to continue their theatre studies in Niagara.
“We have this beautiful facility right here in St. Catharines. This may encourage them to say, ‘we can go to school here.’”