WLAA Special: Behind the curtain and uncovering the drama at Father Gabriel Richard

 
 

OK, so the publicity folks pumping up the Father Gabriel Richard Christmas Play Dec. 14-16 might have their hands full. You see, the title – “The Worst Christmas Play Ever” – might be just a bit misleading.

Rest assured, if this holiday season’s production follows the pattern of past comedies, dramas and musicals staged by the FGR thespians, it most certainly will not be the worst Christmas play ever. In fact, those who attend one of the three 7 p.m. shows in the Father Gabriel Richard multi-purpose room can look forward, perhaps, to one of the best.

“Imagine Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer meets Romeo and Juliet meets The Hottest Man Alive,” said Anne Kolaczkowski-Magee, Performing Arts Teacher and Drama Director at Father Gabriel Richard. “That’s the best way to describe this play.”

Spoiler alert? Probably not. You’d have hard time anticipating what’s coming in “The Worst Christmas Play Ever,” because it has never been staged before. It is a completely original production, written, produced, directed and performed by Kolaczkowski-Magee and her troupe.

“It’s very much a comedy,” said Kolaczkowski-Magee, who has been the drama director since she started the program in her first year of teaching at the school in 1989. “There are plenty of laughs, especially for those in the Father Gabriel Richard community. We call on other plays, and there are some inside jokes thrown in that are sure to make people smile.”

Whenever the FGR dramatists do their thing, smiles are plentiful. Whether it be the couple hundred audience members expected for each performance, or on the actors’ faces at the curtain call. There is also plenty of work, but more than enough satisfaction and smiles.

“These kids are the best,” said Kolaczkowski-Magee. “You see kids in musicals doing dance solos as seniors who really couldn’t dance at all when they first started in earlier years. Or in how much they put into their characters. There’s a feeling of family, of accomplishment. Unless you’re a part of it, it’s hard to explain.”

Still, though, there’s the work …

“There are parts of drama that aren’t so much fun, memorizing lines, going over the same dances over and over and over,” said Sophia Pucillo, a 17-year-old junior who has taken two drama classes in her time at Father Gabriel Richard and will play FGR alumnus Julia Sallumn in “The Worst Christmas Play Ever.” “But, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It’s incredible.”

Pucillo finds her experience so rewarding, in fact, that she plans on taking it to the next level.

“I want to be a theater major in college and make a career of it,” she said. “You learn so much about cultures, whether it be the ‘40s when we did “Guys and Dolls” or about Shakespeare in Drama Class. And the feeling of community with everyone in the plays is fantastic.”

Drama is a lure for club members, even for those whose schedule is already bursting at the seams. Andrew Bonar, 17, took drama class in his sophomore year, and the senior has somehow found time to stay involved throughout his high school career.

“I run track, cross country, play hockey and I’m a big reader, so I don’t have a lot of extra time on my hands, and drama – with the rehearsing, putting up and taking down the sets and everything else that goes with it – takes a lot of time,” Bonar said. “So I don’t do the more serious plays that the club does throughout the year. But I do the Christmas play every year. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but acting is something that is really unique.

“You get to see the world through the eyes of another character, someone other than yourself.”

Bonar’s “other self” in “The Worst Christmas Play Ever” will be FGR alum Robert “Bottles” Pressprich, a tall, lanky, kid who actually is responsible for the name of the play. Lest we give too much away, we’ll leave it at that.

“He’s a great character,” Bonar said. “I’ve had a lot of fun with him. But, I’ll tell you, I’ve been stressing out, too. I’ve been working on my lines, cramming them in.”

There are personal challenges to being an actor, and the FGR program itself faces hurdles.

“We don’t have an auditorium, and funds are always an issue,” Bonar said. “But, everyone always seems to enjoy the shows.”

Bonar and Pucillo each testify to both the enjoyment and work in drama. It goes along with the club’s motto, which is “Drama is not fun, it’s rewarding.” This might seem confusing, given the amount fun that the students have, but it makes sense after hearing Kolaczkowski-Magee’s explanation.

“We instill a professional attitude in the students, they are in drama for a purpose, and that is to give the people who buy a ticket a good show, a quality product. They deserve that,” said Ms. K-M, as her students call her. “That takes a lot of work. Now, as a byproduct of that work, fun is also possible. And that is rewarding.”

The reward of drama is a year-round venture at Father Gabriel Richard. There was last fall’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and rehearsals begin Jan. 17 for the Spring Musical, “Curtains,” to be staged April 12-15.

But, for now, all eyes are on “The Worst Christmas Play Ever.” Dec. 14-16, 7 p.m. each night, $5 a ticket. And, remember, don’t pay any attention to that name.

For more information on the Father Gabriel Richard drama program, visithttp://fgrhs.org/drama/

 

 

 

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