Linden Senior Drama Club students explore complex issues of race, class and privilege in original student-written work — “Unwritten”

Posted by Admin on July 13, 2021 at 10:55 AM

After months of writing, rehearsing, and too many format changes to count, Linden’s Senior Drama Club premiered “Unwritten.” Grade 10 students Nina Nyakio, Julia Smeaton, and Jazz Stocker Witterick undertook leadership roles, guided by drama teacher Coco Lee and guidance counsellor Sam Layton. What emerged was a show that tackled complex issues of race, class, privilege and identity.

Community members described “Unwritten” as an “authentic and brave exploration of sensitive themes, beautifully portrayed by our students" that went “beyond a school production.”

“The script looks nothing like we imagined at the beginning of the year,” said Nina, who co-wrote the play with Julia and played the lead, “but Julia and I knew we wanted to work with poetry, and what it’s like to be a teenager in the pandemic.”

Coco Lee and the cast and crew of Unwritten, pausing to hear from tech. producer Jazz (not pictured).

“Unwritten” follows the stories of Amani, a young Nigerian girl who moves to Canada, and her classmates as they live through a tumultuous pandemic year. As each of them experiences their own struggles, Amani grapples with friendships and “fitting in,” fighting to celebrate that which makes her stand out, and resisting the ignorance of “allies.” When her most honest and vulnerable poem is accidentally shared with her classmates, they grapple with their responsibility and complicity and Amani must decide if she can continue to hide her feelings or if she will “just let it out.”

The script wove together Julia’s written dialogue with Nina’s poetry, creating a thought-provoking, introspective piece that highlights the beauty and tragedy that is growing up today. “Something that we both really prioritized was listening to each other as much as possible,” co-writer and director Julia says of the writing process. “A lot of that came from how close we are and how comfortable we felt being honest with each other.”

Ensemble members Sofia (Grade 9), Tess (Grade 10), Kennah (Grade 8), and Nasinya (Grade 8) brought Nina’s and Julia’s words to life.

Amani (Nina) has an honest and open conversation with her schoolmates (Sofia & Tess).

Behind the scenes, tech manager Jazz pieced the story together through a variety of media, including clips of our student actors performing through Zoom, group text chats in live time, and voice-over acting from the core ensemble. “Originally we were going to have this half live, and half prerecorded,” explained Jazz, “but then we switched to Virtual Learning, and the tech job changed completely at that point.”

Amani (Nina) chats with her hometown friends (Kennah & Nasinya).

“Unwritten” premiered on Wednesday, May 26 for the Linden community to watch live on YouTube. Each performance was followed by a live Q&A with the cast and crew, hosted by Coco. If you would like to watch “Unwritten” again, or share with family and friends, please see below.

The play also featured live talk-back after the two virtual public shows. Cast and crew streamed live from their homes, answering questions posed by the audience in the chat.