For Glee Club director Sarah Hogan, handing an already written script to the young students in her program was just not an option.
Hogan, who studied Performing Arts at Niagara-on-the-Lake,had to pen one from scratch.
“Children’s plays usually have one or two stars and then everyone else has really small, potentially boring roles,” said Hogan. “I try to write a play that can be adopted to the kids that sign-up for the program.”
In this instance, Hogan created a two act play called Tree Put-er Uppers Day for a spirited cast of 25 kids. The original musical drama about toys and Christmas decorations coming to life was performed over the weekend on Dec. 5 and 6 at the Ucluelet Community Centre main hall.
“I’m always observing. It comes from life and then the characters take over and tell me what’s going to happen next,” said Hogan of her creative writing process.
“The way this came about, my husband quite often tells the kids stories, and sometimes he doesn’t say that they’re not real stories. So quite often, the kids have grown up thinking that something he has told them is a real thing. So that was the idea here.”
Rehearsals for Tree Put-er Uppers Day started way back in September. The Glee Club met every Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. to run lines, practice choreography, and sing as a group.
“For some of these kids, they’ve done two or three plays before. But for some of them, this is their first time performing in front of a crowd,” said Hogan.
The little performers had coaching from the five teens that signed-up to do the play, Hogan’s 13-year-old daughter Teagan Griffin being one of them.
“Your lines are easy if you just practice them. We’re supposed to learn our lines in three weeks, but that never happens. Sometimes there are kids that learn their lines in one try, but then there are others that have to really work at it. It depends how good you are at memorizing things,” said Griffin.
“And also you can tweak your own lines to how you want to say them,” she adds.
In addition to reading lines in front of a crowd, the kids also had to adjust to a professional lighting set-up by DJ Mike Productions and musical accompaniment by members of the Ucluelet Secondary School Jazz Band.
“This is the first time that we’ve had a show with live music,” said Hogan whose score included Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Shake It Off by Taylor Swift.
“It’s interesting to see, they’re definitely all at different rates of change. Some kids start off really strong right off the bat and other kids it takes them a while to really get a feel for it,” said the director.
The next Glee Club production will take place in the spring, which leaves the kids with about four months to practice.
The directors’ baton will be handed over to Hogan’s musical theatre partner Courtney Johnson, who also pilots the Glee Club. Johnson has already started brainstorming ideas for her original script.
“Every time we’re finished one, we immediately start thinking about what’s next,” said Johnson.