YORKTON - Many students take part in drama each year.
Far fewer become playwrights.
But, this year four students at Sacred Heart have added writer to their high school resume combining their talents to pen Murder . . . Or Something.
The play, written by Scott Falconer, Daheel Haughton, Madeline Eckhart, and Hudson Smith, is on stage this weekend at the Region #4 Drama Festival.
The festival, held under the auspices of the Saskatchewan Drama Association, brought students from seven schools in East Central Saskatchewan for three days of adjudicated performance at Sacred Heart High School.
So, what brought the four students to the table to write a play.
“Our teacher (Mary-Anne Blenkin) was sort of offering it,” said Smith.
“She saw how good we did last year and had trust in our abilities,” added Haughton.
“She thought we were talented,” continued Smith.
Still, talented or not, bringing the ideas of four people together had to be a challenge starting with the very basic premise of what sort of play it should be.
“I remember the first time we sort of had that talk,” said Falconer.
As it turned out theme was one area they quickly found consensus on.
“We knew we wanted to do a comedy,” said Smith.
But the idea of humour only takes you so far, and the quartet needed more of a foundation to build on.
Up stepped Eckhart who suggested a murder mystery after playing Clue.
It was a quick buy-in from the others.
“Murder mysteries were popular at the time,” said Haughton.
But when did the murder happen.
“We wanted a period piece,” said Eckhart.
“We had so many variations,” offered Falconer.
“So many ideas,” echoed Smith.
“We played around with the year a lot,” continued Falconer. “. . . It was the ‘70s for a day.”
“I think it was the ‘70s for a minute,” joked Smith.
In the end the 1920s won out, in part because the period had a jargon of its own that worked into the idea of creating a comedy.
“We could make fun of the 1920s,” offered Falconer.
The quartet hit Google and began to research the slangs and now long out-dated words of the period.
Words came up like rapscallion, (a mischievous person) and giggle water (alcohol), said Haughton.
Even the cocktails of the day sound funny to an ear in 2023, with gin rickeys and bees’ knees, added Smith.
And over many weeks – they began in early September – they had a script complete in January.
“We met every week for four months,” said Haughton.
Falconer said it was not easy, but worth it.
“We’re all busy people,” he said, adding drama is not their only activity.
It was a case of finishing writing and going straight into rehearsals, said Smith.
It was something they were working toward even as they did the final script work.
“We had cast everybody we could,” said Falconer.
So now the play goes on stage before drama festival adjudicators.
Smith said obviously they feel the tension.
“You’re always nervous before a performance,” he said. “But it’s exciting.”
So was seeing the play performed as the cast of six actors rehearsed.
As the writers “you see stuff the audience don’t see,” said Falconer.
It was almost surreal to watch, added Smith, who noted it helped that the cast and crew have done a fine job of bringing the play to life.
Whether the play advances to provincials – only two of the 10 at the regional event advance – the quartet of writers are happy.
“It was a fun experience,” summed up Smith, adding he’d love to try another play.
“It was a great experience,” agreed Haughton.