U of C drama students spread their wings

By Jordyn Marcellus

For the last six years, Taking Flight has given University of Calgary drama department students an outlet to show their burgeoning talent.

These young actors, playwrights and directors perform works they produced with little assistance from departmental instructors. Student designers create the costumes, with lighting and sound crafted by student technicians. The poor harried student stage managers try to balance school and the intensely stressful job of making everything work.

The beauty of Taking Flight is in its mission to show the U of C’s budding theatre artists before they break out and work beyond campus boundaries. With the Calgary theatre community growing bigger and more artistically relevant every day, the drama department is a feeder for many future productions.

Artistic director Valerie Campbell says that the festival is the premiere way to see dramatists who will entertain audiences for years to come, and Taking Flight is one of their first opportunities to take the reins and produce work solely for themselves.

“In the rest of the season, there’s MFA and faculty-directed productions,” she says. “The process of soliciting is very inclusive, as long as they’re in [a drama] class.”

What Campbell finds is that U of C students don’t attend the works that their fellow students produce. Tickets for non-students are five dollars a show and 15 for a festival pass, it’s a good deal in town. With the Claim Your Seats quality money initiative, students get in for free. Which is why it’s sometimes frustrating to fill seats with an audience that isn’t composed only of friends and family, but student peers as well.

“In general, for whatever reason, we kind of remain invisible to students,” says Campbell. “It’s hard for new students to get their bearings, so it’s understandable. That’s why we have to get the word out.”

It’s not just that university students are skipping out on the drama department’s shows. In Campbell’s experience attending shows in Calgary, the audience skews significantly older.

“I think about how many of them go to theatre,” she says. “It looks like you don’t see anyone outside of our [drama department] students ­– you only see them when they get older.”

Campbell explains that with the recent proposal by the Alberta government to reduce time for secondary fine arts courses during their recent curriculaum review, the idea of exposure to drama, music and art is on the minds of many in the depart- ment.

This inspired some students to perform a piece about the idea of art in relation to money. This led to the creation of The Finer Things In Life, running Wed., April 7 and Thur., April 8 in the Reeve Primary Theatre.

“The drama education class has taken [the current controversy] as inspiration,” says Campbell.

Taking Flight celebrates the students crafting drama, and the ability of art to influence the young minds — whether they’re in high school or post-secondary. It’s an exciting chance to see the artists who will take over stage and screen.

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