by Stephen Dafoe

After teaching the community how to survive a zombie apocalypse last year, a cast of 30 Morinville Public School (MPS) students will spoof movies like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner through the school’s next theatrical production, Dystopia! The Hungry Maze Game of Divergent Death. The play takes place at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre May 24 and 25.

The hour-long play is by Don Zolidis, the same playwright who penned 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. That production was MPS’s inaugural theatrical show last year.

MPS Drama teacher Chris Layton said the new play makes fun of the recent run of dystopian fiction for young people where the characters “for no apparent reason” join a faction that will determine the course of their lives.

“We’re making fun of it. The kids all love those movies, so we said let’s have some fun with it,” Layton explained. “When I asked if they wanted to do it, they were totally into it.”

Layton said the students enjoy doing comedy plays. As a drama teacher of many years, Layton said he finds the students have more fun when they are allowed to be goofy.

“I like to stick to comedies. I’ve found when we do the more serious stuff; the creative juices just don’t flow as well,” he said. “If I can say imagine you are in this situation where there are boulders and things flying at you. What would you do? I’ve got kids that are leaping and flipping around the room as opposed to standing there and looking scared.”

Layton said because his actors are having fun with the play, he believes the audience will as well.

The spring production sees Layton’s cast doubling from their first show. Students have been practicing weekly since February when Layton put out his casting call to all students in Grades 5 to 8.

“I put out a call, not even telling them what the title was, and kids came from all over the place,” he said. “Last time we did it so you could only be in the play if you were in the drama option. This [effort] is entirely after school. This is kids doing this on their own time, so we get the kids who really want to do it.”

The production started with a cold read through of the script, allowing Layton to quickly get a sense of who he wanted in the bigger roles.

“I was actually quite surprising. Some of my Grade 5s are some of the most impressive players in this,” Layton said of the auditioning process.

Though the students have been rehearsing every Wednesday after school for an hour, Layton said rehearsals will ramp up to longer periods as the production nears.

“It’s going really well. I’ve got an assistant director – Miss Bilodeau. I’ve always put on the productions all by myself. It’s great to have an extra person to help me. It’s just such a huge help.”

Despite having death in the title, the drama teacher explained the play is family friendly, and those involved are hoping to see the community come out to support the school play with its bigger cast.

“Every year we are hoping to get bigger and better,” Layton said. “The show is about an hour long. It won’t take up your whole evening, but it is an inexpensive way to have a fun night.

“We’d like for this to become a community event. We don’t want this just to be MPS people coming. If you are interested in drama at all, it’s cheap, and it’s fun, and we want to turn this into an annual event. At the end of May every year, we want to have the community together and get as many kids [as possible] there to see the show.”

The play takes place at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre May 24 and 25 with doors opening and 6:30 p.m. and the show starting at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets for the production are $5 and available at the school and the door. Proceeds from the show will go back into the school’s drama program.

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