A couple of Moose Jaw schools were among the dozen which competed in the Saskatchewan Drama Association's (SDA) 2023 Provincial Drama Festival that took place at the University of Regina May 4 to 6.

Cornerstone Christian School (CCS) received runner-up in Best Overall Production, while Vanier Collegiate was awarded Best Overall Technical Production and runner-up in Best Visual Production.

Both schools performed a rendition of Radium Girls, which is a drama based on the true story of female labourers who were poisoned by their factory’s radium-based paint. Many of the workers died.

Esterhazy High School won Best Overall Production for its rendition of Scapino!

"It was so much fun and so educational," exclaimed Tanya Johnson, CCS Vice-Principal and one of the play's directors. "Our students got to see nearly all of the other productions...They got to learn from their peers in terms of acting technique, technical ideas, all of those kinds of things."

Also directing for CCS were Judah Atkins (student), Jasmine Stevens, and Scott Robertson.

Johnson notes many of the 33 students involved in the cast and crew got the opportunity to attend workshops prior to competing.

"Half of my kids went into an acting workshop and another were in musical theatre where they worked with theatre professionals from across the province and worked on different techniques there. After we performed, they got to attend the production workshops by the adjudicators and then they also attended one or two other adjudication workshops from the other plays. They were able to learn from those adjudicators speaking to different plays as well."

Johnson says with Radium Girls behind them, planning is now underway for the school's fall musical and also for the play that will take place next spring as part of the Region 2 One Act Festival.

Vanier CollegiateVanier Collegiate's cast and crew of Radium Girls - Photo courtesy Facebook (Vanier Collegiate)

Drama Educator Ben Sackville, who was one of three directors that worked with Vanier Collegiate on their production of Radium Girls, said it was nice to see improvement from his drama students after walking away from provincials empty-handed last year. Also directing were David Selensky and Gillian Muench.

He talked about what the students took away from the experience.

"Just the attendance of a festival where you have these winning plays coming from different regions and they get to see these really incredible productions put on by other schools and see what's possible and what were the best productions that year, because really there are a lot of great shows that happen and they get to see the best of the best."

He notes one of the benefits of going to provincials is that students get to work with and be adjudicated by two of the university's drama program professors. Sackville added that many of the 27 students that took part in the production also attended workshops provided by SDA.

Sackville says he also learned something from the experience.

"One of things that we definitely focused on most is the growth of our own students. The adjudications are where the teachers who get to put these shows on also get a bit of an education because we get somebody else's perspective on our shows. It's nice to hear things we might have tried differently or new ideas that we could always think of for the future. Beyond that, it was just nice to see that the kind of work that we put into our show this year paid off for our students."

Next up for Vanier Collegiate will be Elf: The Musical, which is taking place in November at the Mae Wilson Theatre.

"I feel like we had a really excellent group this year, and we're just really happy with how things went," concluded Sackville.

Below is a list of individual award winners from the Saskatchewan Drama Association's 2023 Provincial Drama Festival:

Cornerstone Christian School

Linnea Mellor - Runner-Up Best Stage Manager
Eden Brown - Acting Award (Role of Grace Fryer)
Gabby Thomas - Acting Award  (Role of Katheryn Wiley)
Rebecca Gutek - Technical Award (Lighting Design)
Elora Mellor - Cheer Award
Judah Atkins - Certificate of Merit in Acting (Role of Arthur Roeder)
Taylor Hall - Certificate of Merit in Acting (Role of Harriet Roeder)
Toby Heppner - Certificate of Merit in Technical Theatre (Sound Design)

Vanier Collegiate

Thomas Daintree - Acting Award (Arther Roeder)
Brooklyn Artavia, Mia Donaldson, Larashia Falcon, Temi Ogundehin - Technical Award (Projection Design)
Peter Gumacal - Technical Certificate (Head of Crew)
Jesse Cline - Technical Certificate (Clock Operation)
Marek Seargeant - Technical Certificate (Lighting Design)
Emily Pouteaux - Technical Certificate (Stage Management)
Keaton Clark - Acting Certificate (Tom, Lovesick Cowboy)
Sarah Gonzales - Acting Certificate (Kathryn Shaub)
Mia Donaldson - Debbie Baker Cheer Award