The local youth-oriented theatre company, Carousel Players, is beginning their 45th season this year with Tick. They are going on tour for the next four weeks to various schools in Southern Ontario after first giving a performance at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre this past Saturday. This particular production focuses heavily on themes of family, communication, participation in the community and literacy.
The Brock Press was able to sit down and chat with Artistic Director, Jessica Carmichael, and Elena Belyea who plays Tick, to discuss the play, the company and getting youth involved in their local communities.
“A big overarching theme is change, and how change affects a young person at school and at home, and also in society. Tickallia (longer form for Tick the title character of the play) is going through change: her mother and her have been a tight unit since she was six-years-old when her father left, and now there’s a new boyfriend that’s being introduced into the family.”
“Meanwhile [Tick’s mother’s new boyfriend] is also on City Council and the City has been dealing with some difficulties on how they are trying to save money, and so they’ve started shutting down lots of recreational places that the community go to for free, and one of them is the library. That’s a huge change in Ticks life and both of these events … are coming to a head” explains Carmichael.
The play aims to connect with youth who may feel like they don’t have a voice, and might be frustrated in their community. Carousel Players wants to show these youths that they can be involved and frustrated but they need to be measured about the expression of that anger.
“Tick feels so strongly about the changes in her life that she starts to push away her friends who in fact are the people that she should be leaning on … and treating [them] as though their her ‘underlings’ is what she says in the play” Carmichael continues. “So she starts becoming kind of a dictator because everything has to be her way. So it deals with that with friendship, and how we treat our friends, especially in great times of need. “
The play also asks youth, “‘how do we speak to adults when we’re a young person, and we live in an adult world?’” Carmichael says that youth who don’t seem to have a voice and can’t vote need to hear that their voices do matter and the adults in their lives need to hear it as well. Furthermore, she seaks to affect child-adult relationships, getting both parties to focus on respect and listening.
As previously mentioned the company targets a youth audience with its work. Carmichael says that, “this particular show is going to be played for grades five to eight so ages about 10 to 15 and then we’ do another show later in the year that we’ll go back and rehearse for, that will be for that younger age group: one to four.”
“It’s always an interesting challenge to go into a school and feel that you want to do a piece of theatre that’s a high art but at the same time, you know that there’s an educational component that the school is looking for when they program us. So we try and be mindful of that, … but we don’t ask our playwrights to write a themed play. We ask our playwrights to write a play that matters to them and that they think would speak to them as a youth — whatever that means”
In every school Carmichael says that Carousel Players’ shows “do question and answer periods, that’s a huge part of the work we do in terms of engaging the students and hearing what their thoughts are and trying to pull messages out of the play. So craft a Q & A where there’s a little bit of asking them some leading questions about things that they may have seen and then we turn over the Q & A over to the kids so that they can ask the questions. And we always try and make sure that if we get off track and they start asking ‘who’s your favourite hockey player?’ or ‘are you in movies?’ we try and bring it back to, ‘what did we see in the play?’.”
Belyea feels that “A lot of it is just about creating space for those people to speak. The young people that we’ve spoken to so far … they’re so smart and so curious, and they have a tonne of stuff to say, so I feel like a lot of it is just giving them space to express that in just like giving space to express that and then actually listening to what they have to say, and then treating it as important … as thoughts from anybody in any other age group.”