There’s something about ‘50s pop culture that still resonates.
Picture the girls in their button-up cardigans, pony tails and bobby socks and boys with their greased-back hair, madras and white T-shirts putting coins in the jukebox while drinking malts at the local diner.
For a group of Kalamalka Secondary School students, re-runs of the classic TV show Happy Days and the musical Grease have been a few ways they have been able to connect to the look and feel of the ‘50s as they get ready to stage their year-end play, Service on 6th.
Add in the silly antics of Dumb and Dumber, and you get the idea for this romantic comedy, produced, penned, directed, costumed, designed, built, painted, driven and portrayed solely by the students of Kalamalka’s Apple Box Theatre.
A labour of love, the play started with an original concept by head writer Wardan Vanderveen, a Grade 12 student who also stars as John in the production.
“We chose the ‘50s era as it suited the diner theme,” said Vanderveen. “We wanted to explore (the ‘50s) from the eras we previously explored in our other recent plays, the ‘30s in Idiosyncrasies and the ‘90s in Broken.”
An example of youth democracy in action, it was Vanderveen’s job to coordinate his fellow classmates’ ideas into the play, and then help cast those who fit the various roles which numbered to 25 in all, including minor parts.
“These are non-auditioned roles,” said Vanderveen. “Me, the stage manager, and (Kal drama teacher) Mr. (Shon) Thomas helped pick the roles that fit, which was a challenge, and everyone then could veto the role they were given.”
Set in the 6th Street Diner (no relation to Vernon’s Diner on Six) in the fictional town of Dirtwood, the play follows the community’s quirky citizens whose interconnected lives are acted out amongst a backdrop of giant records.
There’s the diner’s owner/server Ruth (Sarah Kozin) who guides by example when dealing with the young people who visit her establishment.
Then there’s the couple (Vanderveen and Courtney Kneale) with big city dreams who attempt to break free of Dirtwood and leave their small-town lives behind.
Along for the journey is François (Ian Pusey), a man-child with little emotional control, who is faced with his daughter wanting to run away with her boyfriend.
Add in some shocking plot twists and swoon-worthy romances, and what started out as a jumble of thoughts and ideas has miraculously come together to form what the students like to call a play, said Grade 12 student Morgan Hillis, who has taken on the role of Penny, the new gal in town also trying to find her way.
“The challenge was to do it ourselves. Mr. Thomas doesn’t interfere. He let’s us solve our own problems,” said Hillis, adding the students often had to think about the language to suit the times.
“If we had to modify a line, it had to fit the era. The characters have to make sense.”
That thinking also played a part in designing the set, which was taken on by Grade 10 student Pusey.
After some modifications, and despite one of the doors to the diner being put on backwards, Pusey finally came up with a concept that worked.
“The set was an ordeal. I didn’t know what I was doing for the first month of class as we were busy writing. I did sketches of five designs, but none of them worked,” he said.“It’s been a struggle, but it’s now coming together well.”
Kozin says the best thing about the play has been bringing the different age groups together to work on one common goal.
“This is my last play with the school. From Grade 10 to now, I’ve grown so much as a person, and in my relationships with people,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”
Apple Box Theatre’s Service on 6th runs May 28 to June 7 (no shows June 2 and 6). Doors open at 7 p.m. Matinee is June 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7/adults, $5/students available at the school office or at the door.