Hearne stages Anne
Canadian musical opens next Thursday

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 31/00) - The Samuel Hearne high school students are acting up, but no one is complaining.

Thanks in part to teachers Cheryl Baytaluke, Sandra Amendt and Al Nicholson, the school is staging the musical production of Anne of Green Gables. Finishing touches are being put on costumes and sets and the actors and singers are gearing up for next Thursday's opening night.

"Things are shaping up well," said show producer Baytaluke. "The songs are great and the acting is coming along."

The production also received help from Peter McWhir, a Calgary-based drama teacher who worked with Inuvik teachers and students and left his mark on the musical. He spent about 30 hours on the Anne set coaching the actors, redesigning the set and moving the stage into the middle of the gym floor. The audience will now sit on three sides and surround the action.

"It's a people show and not a spectator sport, and this way it's much more intimate," said McWhir. "We've also simplified the setting and left the actors and their imaginations to paint the picture."

Baytaluke said the student actors are happy with the changes, and there was certainly a lot of smiles and laughter at last Friday's first dress rehearsal.

Sonia De Klerk, Sheila Anderson and Shawna Roland helped create the costumes, which were bright and colourful and reflected the simplicity of rural Prince Edward Island, where the story is set, said Baytaluke.

The 18-member cast includes Alicia Harry as Anne, Paul Carriedo as Gilbert, Tamara Hansen as Marilla and Stephen Robertson as Matthew.

Carly Turner, who doubles as Mrs. Blewett and as Prissy Andrews, became involved because she hadn't done anything in drama before and thought it would be a lot of fun.

"But it's also been a lot of hard work," she added. "We've been practising since the fall and now have to devote all our free time to it, from 8 in the morning till 7 or 8 at night."

Robertson said solos are the most difficult part of his role but he's sung in public before and is gaining confidence.

Hansen just likes it when everything comes together.

"I like the acting best," she said, "and once how you know your lines it's fun to be able to run through a whole scene nonstop."

Junior high students like Elizabeth De Klerk make up the vast majority of the cast, and co-producers Baytaluke and Amendt said that's probably because the seniors are more involved in other activities and will wait to see how this first musical turns out before getting involved next time.

Among the enthusiastic juniors is Grade 8 student Kyla Larocque, who leapt at the chance to play the parts of Miss Spencer and Gertie Pye.

"I'd seen the movie version, and it was really cool," she said. "I figured I'd never been in a play before and really tried hard to make it."

Musical director Nicholson said Inuvik's efforts are even being appreciated by the musical's composer, Norman Campbell, who sent the school a letter of support.

"Before I became a television producer I used to be a weatherman, which took me to Sable Island, N.S., and Fort Nelson at the top of British Columbia," he wrote. "That was as far North as I was able to go, but now through at least my music I'm able to feel the real North in Inuvik."

Anne of Green Gables plays next Thursday and Friday in Inuvik, and will be performed in Tuktoyaktuk the following Monday.