ROM Showcases Linden’s Senior Drama Club’s Unwritten
Unwritten, Linden's 2020-2021 Senior Drama Club’s feature production, is being showcased at the Royal Ontario Museum in an exhibit called #MyPandemicStory: youth create portraits of a pandemic.
Drama teacher Coco Lee submitted Unwritten on behalf of students last May, in response to the ROM’s call for artworks created by students that portray what the pandemic has been like for kids and teens throughout Ontario. Unwritten is featured in a digital slideshow within the physical exhibition and in an interactive gallery online. The play was written, performed and technically produced by students.
Unwritten was co-authored by Nina Nyakio, who also played the lead character, 16-year-old Amani, who recently arrived in Canada. The play follows the story of Amani and her new classmates as they live through a tumultuous year shaped by the pandemic, while courageously exploring the intersecting forces of youth, identity, race, culture, geography, and privilege. Unwritten incorporates spoken word poetry and multi-media digital storytelling, depicting the disconnected, online world in which the students found themselves.
The political and personal weight of Unwritten, and the importance of the issues discussed in the piece, are not lost on Grade 11 co-writer and director Julia Smeaton. “My previous experiences were smaller, more personal projects where I got to be very selective about the audience and the stakes, and going up another level to get to do work that felt so grounded and valuable was phenomenal,” she says.
Jazz, now in grade 11, talks about the challenges of doing theatre and extracurriculars online: “I see it as a valuable opportunity for facilitators and students alike to learn the useful tech skills that up till the beginning of the pandemic, were not essential. Now everyone has a good reason to learn about the amazing capabilities of the technical world, and those of us who are real tech lovers since before the pandemic really get to apply our skills and even push outside our comfort zone with newer and more complex technical challenges.” For Jazz, “There was truly nothing more satisfying than starting the live stream and watching nine months of work play out in the most beautiful way … I'm also proud of all the adapting that had to be done (by everyone involved) and the way in which we all were able to be constantly adapting and re-organizing everything on a week to week and sometimes day by day basis.”
“Drama Club is always a big time commitment that can be stressful and rewarding in equal measure,” says Coco Lee, who supervises the Senior Drama Club alongside Sam Layton. “This show, with its frank explorations of challenging subjects, demands an emotional presence, technical skill, and artistic trust that would be impressive under “normal” circumstances. And yet, our students were able to shape this beautiful and meaningful piece from their own hearts and minds at a time when we were all stretched to our limits. The entire cast and crew showed patience, resilience, and bravery in creating during those constantly-shifting circumstances. I am so proud of Nina, Julia, Jazz, and all the Senior Drama Club members, and truly grateful that they trusted me and the Linden community with their stories.”
It would be impossible to accuse these students of resting on their laurels. Julia shares what’s next for 2021-2022: “None of us have been onstage since 2019 and I cannot wait to get to spend time in another story that’s a little bit further from the one we’ve been living now. I’ve missed the little things you get out of Senior Drama at Linden - inside jokes from rehearsals and friendships in between grades and the incredible feeling of being together in that theatre.”
The physical exhibition and online gallery launched on October 23rd and will be live until spring 2022. Both are free to visit. You can find updates on the ROM website.
Congratulations to Linden’s 2020-2021 Senior Drama Club members!