Branksome Hall News

Little Women Production a Labour of Love for Grade 11 and 12 Theatre Students

After weeks of preparation, it’s almost here. Branksome’s Senior School Theatre Ensemble will get the chance to stand in the spotlight during the upcoming screenings of their production of Little Women.
Led by teacher Amy Helsby, the production is one that allows students to showcase their hard work and talents, while creatively following COVID-19 protocols. The production was filmed professionally and will stream online for two showings only—on Thursday, December 9 and Friday, December 10.

Little Women is a timeless, classic story about growing up, discovering your place in the world, struggling between choosing love and independence, and coping with great loss,” said Ms. Helsby. “Faced with the challenges of creating a show during the pandemic, I wanted to try something different; I wanted to take a creative risk by telling the story on film by taking advantage of many of Branksome's beautiful, historic buildings and campus as a backdrop.”
Ms. Helsby felt that this was the right show to produce this year. “If I was going to do it, now was the time,” she said. “And this was the right group to do that with. They had an appreciation for the text and were passionate about the characters and bringing the story to life. It felt like the right play at the right time.”
Grade 11 student Jamie is both the Assistant Director of the production, and will be playing the role of Theodore “Laurie” Lawrence. “I had been involved in every theatre production since I came to Branksome and I’ve always been happiest while at rehearsals!” she said. “I was so grateful to be approached by Ms. Helsby to work as the Assistant Director on Little Women and I’ve enjoyed getting to take on a leadership position this year.”
Jamie also worked on many details behind the scenes, such as designing the poster and making props for the show.
Grade 11 student Jadzia, who plays character Jo March, is new to Branksome and feels it has been a great way to meet other students. “Since we started in October, I have enjoyed every moment of it, working with the cast and crew on this project,” she said. 
Rehearsing multiple days a week, the cast and crew worked hard to make the production a great success. “We often started our rehearsals with student-led warmups, then worked together to block each scene, build characters and develop character relationships,” said Ms. Helsby. “Sometimes we would rehearse ‘on location’ (where we would be filming), while at other times, we would set up the space to resemble that particular locale. The Weston Drawing Room has been the "March family home" for almost 2 months!”
Having the show pre-recorded allowed students to work together, alongside professional videographer Christian Peterson, to produce a show that is top-notch quality.

“Our small crew has been assisting Christian while on set,” said Ms. Helsby. “They've been 'calling' the shots, such as 'Camera, Sound, Standby, Action, Cut!”, running sound on headsets, setting up the camera shots, and helping with lighting.” 
"The students who are passionate and dedicated to the Arts have been craving the opportunity to have a creative outlet again. The shared experience of being together, rehearsing, discovering, sharing—that's what bonds them together as an ensemble. They feed off of the energy of each other. So being together in person is critical for that to happen. Performing on Zoom could never replace an in-person experience.” 
By filming the production, it brought about new challenges and learning opportunities for Ms. Helsby and her students. “We've had to work to find the nuances of acting for the camera vs. acting on a stage in front of an audience,” she said. “Although we've had our set of challenges, it's also been rewarding and I think we'll all feel very proud of the finished product.”
Jamie agrees that filming the production was a different experience and one that she learned from. “It was quite different to get used to the complexities of filming, it felt like being on a proper movie set,” she said. “Overall though, it has been so fun getting to spend time with this amazing cast and make something that we can all be proud of.”
For Jadzia, this has also been a learning experience. “This project has had its fair share of challenges, like switching from a play to a film, but we have always found workarounds; film form gives us even more creative freedom,” she said. “In a nutshell, this production has had a lot of curveballs thrown its way, but because of our teamwork, commitment and perseverance, I think that when we share this story, it will be a hit.”

The film is screening from Thursday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. until Friday, December 10 at midnight. Click here to watch the screening.

Land Acknowledgement

We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

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Branksome Hall
10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
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