“Step into a world where time is a mere concept, and the power of love and bravery knows no bounds,” writes student publicist Elisabeth Innes.
And as the Gulf Islands School of Performing Arts (GISPA) prepares a student-led production of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time, it’s clear audiences will indeed find themselves transported. The student-led production of the enduring classic — with the gentle direction of educators Michelle Footz (music), Sonia Langer (dance) and Jason Donaldson (theatre) — is perhaps itself a fitting metaphor for the long-running program, having nurtured so many young, diverse artists on Salt Spring over the years.
“The book is very ‘GISPA’,” said Grade 12 dance strand student Jane Holmes. “It has a lot of the elements we use in terms of different worlds — different dimensions, the portals through them. Dynamics and magic.”
“And each world has a very different feeling to it,” added Raiven Hamer Garton, a GISPA theatre strand student in Grade 11. “Like the program here; we’re able to showcase our talents in each world. This year in particular has been one of the most integrated shows I’ve been in — or heard about.”
The storyline of “Wrinkle” — the tale of Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin racing across worlds to rescue family — is moved along by each of the GISPA strands, said Hamer Garton: acting, music and dance. The production features a host of student artists, including nine actors, four dancers and nine musicians, moving between their own worlds and blurring strand boundaries — imagine actors helping with choreography, or musicians in dance pieces.
“There’s a lot of that crossover,” said Grade 12 musician Cedar Lopateki. “There are people in the musician group who have experience acting or dancing; there are dancers who have experience acting.”
And even as audiences can expect actors on stage surrounded by music and dance — an integration inherent in GISPA’s performance philosophies — Holmes points out the experience isn’t “musical theatre,” at least as one might expect.
“There’s a distinction, I feel, between what GISPA does and what musical theatre does,” said Holmes. “GISPA [productions] have a more serious message revolving around the play, not just the cheeriness you see in musicals. I think we have a very mature way of building the show — for a group of high school students.”
That maturity shows up in the choices the student leaders made for script — jumping-off, Holmes said, from an existing adaptation and stage notes — as well as in score, choreography and even set. All the music and every dance in the show is original, largely a collective creation from the cast members, and the set is innovative and multi-functional; less is often more for the small group, who all pitch in to handle scene changes.
“It’s a unique challenge,” said Lopateki. “We had to make things seem full. To do the big ideas, we had to do it smaller — we had to fill the stage, and create a deeper meaningful image with less.”
Many of the ideas were inspired by other productions seen off-island; Lopateki said GISPA students get the occasional opportunity to travel to see shows elsewhere, broadening their horizons — and stashing away ideas for later.
“It’s important, on this small island and community to bring in new ideas,” agreed Holmes. “Sometimes you might stagnate, in our instinct to stay in what’s familiar. But reaching out into the world for those new ideas is so important to being an artist.”
Hamer Garton gestured to set pieces built specifically for the production.
“Just these three door frames, adding or taking away some extra space, help create four or five different planets,” said Hamer Garton. “Rather than trying to make the set speak for the piece, it allows the audience to focus on the artists.”
Audiences can nonetheless expect a “visually stunning spectacle,” according to Innes, with imaginative lighting effects transporting viewers from the Murry family’s humble home to far-flung planets and mystical realms.
“In this performance, witness the extraordinary power of human connection, the triumph of good over evil and the unwavering strength of the human spirit,” writes Innes. “Prepare to be swept away on a breathtaking journey, filled with wonder, danger and heartwarming moments that will leave you inspired and believing in the extraordinary.”
Performances run three nights at ArtSpring, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. on June 7, 8 and 9.
Tickets are on sale through artspring.ca.