A small group of creative teens set out to accomplish a monumental feat, one that few teens, let alone adults, would attempt: they were going to write a musical. And, at the end of July, their hard work paid off as they performed their hour-long show to much applause.
But, it was a long road from page to stage.
“We had four people at the time in our class, and we were just talking about what we should do next and somebody joked that we should write a musical,” recalled Kelsey Van Blarcom, the director and musical director of Apocalypse, the Musical.
The original four Drama 12 students, Van Blarcom, Conor McNeil, Kassie Minor and Evan Stoney, went to work on completing the task. A few other students provided input as well, and soon, additional students signed on to play lead roles.
“Over the course of several months, we wrote a script and were writing songs. At one point, we decided that we wanted to take it further and actually perform it,” Van Blarcom said.
The group premiered a portion of their show in Halifax.
“Originally, the musical was going to be performed at a couple of schools and so we wanted to test out an audience — sometimes shows do that — and so we decided we were going to take Act I to Drama Fest,” she said.
“Our theatre was full because it was right after the opening ceremonies and there was about 350 people and we actually got a standing ovation, which was very exciting.”
But that excitement was soon tempered when they learned they would not be able to perform at Avon View High School due to the religious nature of the play.
“We knew from the beginning that, because of the content of our play, it might be stopped,” said Van Blarcom.
The play focuses on the religious ideology surrounding the rapture, also known as the apocalypse or end of days. Its central characters include several Christians, an atheist, a scientologist and appearances by Lucifer and Jesus Christ.
“It's about the end of the world. Our characters are greatly exaggerated so they're meant to be extremists in their religion,” said Van Blarcom.
“We didn't want to offend anybody. We just wanted to make people question what there is,” she said.
But this roadblock was just a stepping-stone for the team, as Van Blarcom said it helped push them to create something better.
“In the end, I think it turned out better because we were allowed to do more things that we probably wouldn't do in school,” said Van Blarcom.
“After hearing that we couldn't do it at our school, the whole cast got together and we decided that we've come too far to just stop. We kind of took it upon ourselves to try and find a venue.”
The group, which featured the talent of students from Grade 9 to university, decided on King's-Edgehill School and, for one night only, showcased the show in its entirety July 27.
For Ally Loiselle, who starred as Faith, a young Christian girl who questions her beliefs in the show, finally getting to perform in front of an audience was worth all of the hard work along the way. She said she'd do it again, if given the chance.
“I would love for it to (be held again),” said Loiselle, a 2012 AVHS graduate. “I don't know how likely that is but if it was I would definitely be on board to do it again because it was an amazing experience.”
While the play could be deemed controversial by some, Loiselle feels it's important to talk about religion openly and honestly. She brought up the incident that happened in May of this year when a Grade 12 student in Chester Basin was suspended for wearing a t-shirt that said 'Life is Wasted Without Jesus' as an example.
“It's been in the media. It's coming down in laws about how you shouldn't have laws based upon one religion or another,” said Loiselle. “So, it's something that I think is really prevalent… so to be able to talk about it openly and maybe show some aspects of it that haven't been seen before, I think is really important and eye-opening for everybody.”
The show consisted of Kevin Barnes (George, the Christian father), Brianne Burns (George's mother Elizabeth; a hooker; and a minion), Tristan Loiselle (Phillip, a Mormon), Ally Loiselle (Faith, a Christian teenager), Kassie Miner (Mohomin; and Catherine), Mallory Kroll (Katie Holmes, a Scientologist) Conor McNeil (Charlie, an atheist), Evan Stoney (Lucifer), and Luke Rayworth (Jesus; and a Satanist).
Rounding out the crew was Van Blarcom, the director and musical director who played the show's entire score on piano during the show, Leigh Melanson and Drew Jardine (light and sound technicians) and Becca Carr (stage manager).