by Lynn on September 18, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Peterborough Alternative and Continuing Education (PACE), 201 McDonnel Street, Peterborough, Ont. Presented by Theatre Direct, 4th Line Theatre Special Event, Prairie Fire and Peterborough Museum and Archives. Plays until Sept. 23, 2023.

Written by Madeleine Brown

Directed by Aaron Jan

Set and Costumes by Melanie McNeill

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Sound by Uri Livne-Bar

Cast: Lion Addison

Jalen Brink

Edith Burton

Ziqin Chen

Ella Cunningham

Jeff Dingle

Eloise Harvey

M. John Kennedy

Isabelle Siena

Sarah Lynn Strange

Jessie Williams

A fine example of student activism in action to save their beloved school from closing.

The play takes place in 2011, in Peterborough, Ont. Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School is the home away from home for students who want to study the arts and explore who they are, in an accepting, caring environment with their peers. Peterborough Collegiate was founded in 1827.  

But there is trouble brewing. The school is not fully accessible to all students. There are no ramps to enter the building or elevators for those students who find stairs daunting. It would cost too much money to bring the school up to code and so it was set to close.

The students go into action. Lead by two students, Breaker (Jalen Brink) and Bode (The Cat) (Isabelle Siena) they galvanize their student body to protest and form the group Raiders in Action to forward the cause, lobbied their school trustees and teachers, argued their case before various adult groups and continued to ramp up the pressure to keep the story in the news. Breaker also imagines the specter of Rick Mercer (Jeff Dingle) to advise her in how to keep things rolling.

The students contended with siblings who made fun of the effort, adults who treated them as “children” and didn’t take their concerns seriously, and others who ignored them. Through it all they continued right to the last.

The production takes place at Peterborough Alternative and Continuing Education (PACE) on the very sight of the former Peterborough Collegiate. In fact, the name, Peterborough Collegiate, is still there on one sign.

The building is beautiful. It is now used as a continuing educational facility. But it is still not accessible to all students who need/want to go there. There is money to have someone care for the gardens and grounds, raise and lower the flags outside, keep the floors inside gleaming and the building clean, but not enough money to install ramps and elevators.

What is wrong with this picture?

Playwright Madeleine Brown has written a bracing play about student activism and their enthusiasm for a worthy cause. She has written the students with compassion and care. The adults are written with wit and a bit of tongue in cheek. She has also captured the grinding bureaucracy and how the stalwart students coped.

Director Aaron Jan directs his cast of student actors, some of whom have never acted before, with sensitivity. The play takes place in the school auditorium and the acoustics are unforgiving. Some actors are not adept at projection and others, such as Jalen Brink as Breaker and Isabelle Siena (Bode) are quite clear. We cut them all slack for the effort and commitment. The adult professional actors such as Jeff Dingle as Rick Mercer, Sarah Lynn Strange in multiple roles and M. John Kennedy in various bureaucratic roles are all dandy.

Bravo to all of them for a robust production.

Presented by Theatre Direct, a 4th Line Theatre Special Event, Co-Produced by Theatre Direct and Prairie Fire, in Association with Peterborough Museum and Archives.

Plays until Sept. 23, 2023.

Running time: 75 minutes (no intermission)

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