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A DARLIN' PLAY, A DARLIN PLAY!9.11.2009
Between 3 – 7 November 2009, St. Mary’s Grammar School presented Sean O’Casey’s classic Irish drama, Juno and the Paycock. Affording pupils the opportunity to work in a professional theatre context and alongside industry professionals, the play was staged in the Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown and enjoyed the support of a number of leading theatre practitioners.
Throughout the rehearsal process, cast members had numerous opportunities to work with professionals from various theatre disciplines. In September, pupils were privileged to participate in a master class exploring accent with Andrea Ainsworth, Vocal Director at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. In October, two of Northern Ireland’s distinguished practitioners, Dan Gordon and Peter Ballance, facilitated cast workshops exploring areas such as language, vocal technique and character development. In addition, pupils gained an insight into other theatre arts through their engagement with a professional make-up artist, costume designer, set designer and lighting designer.
This production, the first play to be staged by the school in many years, proved to be a great success. Receiving huge acclaim, the production has been favourably compared to professional productions of the play.
In a letter to Mr D. Lambon, Principal, Tony McCance, Manager of the Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown said: “I felt compelled to write to congratulate staff and pupils on what was a fantastic production of this O’Casey classic.”
Paul Sleet, Drama Field Officer with NEELB, offered the following response to the play: “This was by far the most professional school production I have seen in recent years. Any school would have been proud to showcase the talents of their pupils and staff in a professional theatre with such attention to detail.”
Fr. Moore, School Chaplain, found the play to be a “very enjoyable and moving experience.” He felt that “it could go to the West End in London.”
Dan Gordon, offering his evaluation of the production, said: “I have the strong impression that the Drama Department itself has a particularly enlightened approach to the holistic development of the subject and thought this very evident when attending workshops and rehearsals for the recent production of Juno and the Paycock. In my experience, school productions often become about the end result rather than the processes of developing and enhancing the skills and understanding of the performers. I am satisfied that, in the case of the St. Mary’s Drama Department, this is clearly not the case – the finished production was the product of a uniquely tailored process for each individual involved and I am convinced it will have far reaching benefits in the lives of the participants.”
Peter Balance, based on his experience of the production, observed: “There was a sound understanding of the principles of theatre production with a fully engaged management team that were both dynamic and knowledgeable. I was particularly impressed with the technical standards set and would place the overall production values with those set by professional theatre companies. I witnessed the positive effect this had upon the students and this was reflected in their commitment and duty. I would have no hesitation in recommending this institution to any body that would encourage the setting of high standards within the field of the performing arts.”
Following the production, cards and letters of congratulation arrived to the school.
Mrs M. White, Principal of St. Pius X College, wrote: “Congratulations on the success of ‘Juno.’ It was a production worthy of professional actors.”
Other letters received from audience members included the following comments:
“We just felt we had to write to you to congratulate you all on a wonderful production of Juno. For a school to take on such a heavy play, it was nothing short of excellent. We have seen this play a couple of times before done by ‘professionals’ in the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, but were more than impressed with the ‘just as professional St. Mary’s production.”
“It was truly a magnificent production. Many of my friends who had previously seen the play in the Abbey in Dublin and the Lyric in Belfast all commented on how the St. Mary’s production was equally as good, if not better, than these professional productions.”
Success in G.C.S.E. Drama(CCEA)24.11.2009
The Drama Department of St. Mary’s Grammar School was delighted to learn that, once again, pupils from the school have excelled in their study of the subject. Aisling O’Brien achieved first place in Northern Ireland in GCSE Drama while Eimear McCollum achieved third place in Northern Ireland in the subject. Congratulations are due to the girls who are both continuing with their study of Drama and Theatre Studies.
Of Mice and Men16.11.2009
On Wednesday 15th and Thursday 16th October 2009, the English Department of St. Mary’s Grammar School was pleased to welcome Arty Fact Theatre Company to the school. The company performed Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck to an audience of Year 11 and Year 12 students from St. Mary’s and St. Pius X College who are exploring the text as part of their study of GCSE English Literature. Following the performance, pupils had the opportunity to engage in a discussion with the actors about the performance and the text itself.