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Just trying to fit in at high school

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The John Arnalukjuak High School Drama Club has struck another social nerve with its recent production of The Breakfast Club in Arviat.

NNSL photo/graphic

The cast of the John Arnalukjuak High School Drama Club's production of The Breakfast Club in Arviat are Innosar Issakiark (Bender) and Andy Evaloakjuk (Mr. Vernon), back row from left, Kristin Netser (Allison), Emily Innuksuk (Leanne) and Ramon Kaviok (Andrew), middle row from left, and Meagan Netser (Claire), front. - photo courtesy of Gord Billard

The drama club made headlines this past year when it tackled a sensitive Northern issue with The Bright Blue Mailbox Suicide Note.

The Breakfast Club, a story about students with different stereotypes who discover during detention that they have a lot in common, featured Innosar Issakiark as Bender, Meagan Netser as Claire, Ramon Kaviok as Andrew, Emily Innuksuk as Leanne, Avis Mukyungnik and Kristin Netser as Allison, and Andy Evaloakjuk as Mr. Vernon.

The play was co-directed by Gord Billard and Samantha Abbott.

Billard said Abbott has a degree in theatre from Newfoundland's Memorial University, and a group she belonged to abridged the movie script and trimmed it down to a 45-minute play.

He said when the Arviat troupe was looking for its next script, Abbott brought The Breakfast Club for consideration.

"The kids read it and we decided it was the one we wanted to try," said Billard.

"One male role in the movie was turned into a female part by Samantha's group and we kept that version.

"So Brian in the movie was changed to a female character, Leanne, in this production."

Billard said The Breakfast Club caught the eye of Cathy McGregor, who was in Arviat during its production this past month.

He said in much the same way as the suicide note, McGregor felt there might be a place for it in Nunavut's curriculum.

"We agreed to do a special performance (on June 12) for a group of about 25 from curriculum and school services who accompanied (curriculum director) McGregor to the play.

"The kids were thrilled when they got the news about the special performance for a VIP audience.

"They identified with the characters to the point where they started improvising on their own once they were comfortable with the script."

Billard said Abbott took the bulk of the directing responsibilities because she knew the play so well.

He said the two of them worked quite well together as a directing team.

"I know I always say it, but this turned out to be one of the best shows we've done.

"The cast is an experienced core group, and we've grown to know and work with each other very well during the past couple of years.

"The characters in this are almost stereotypical, but each one represents a subgroup that exists within the school environment, whether it's jocks, smart alecks, weirdos or troublemakers.

"I'm sure each cast member knows someone who they would say fits the description of each Breakfast Club character."

Billard said many of the issues in 1985 are the same ones kids struggle with today.

He said part of the play's appeal is that trying to fit in and have a sense of belonging is still so relevant.

"It's remarkable when you realize many issues kids stressed over in 1985 are the same today.

"Education itself may be different - with all the new technology and directions education inevitably takes every other year - but some things never change.

"The original movie is a cult classic, and things become cult classics because their message is universal.

"Kids still worry about the same things today as they did 30 years ago."

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