Four students at Hope Secondary School are bringing the intense family drama Independence to life this week.
Maya Cowan, Emma Link, Katharina Sevier-Fries and Heidi Wismath debuted the full-length play by Lee Blessing last night, and will return to the stage tonight (May 22) and tomorrow (May 23) at 7:30 p.m.
The story is set in the small town of Independence, Iowa, the lifelong home of Evelyn Briggs (Cowan). Her oldest daughter, Kess (Wismath), is a university professor in Minneapolis, but comes home at the request of her sister, Jo (Sevier-Fries) who is concerned for Evelyn’s mental health. Kess, a professed lesbian, wants to cut her family ties once and for all; Jo, an incurable romantic and longtime virgin, has now become pregnant; while Sherry (Link), salty-tongued and amoral, wants only to finish high school so she can leave home for good. In the end, there is no accommodation possible but, instead, only a kind of arbitrary independence for each of the protagonists, as they come to realize that each must find her own heaven – or hell – in her own way.
“Everybody’s got dysfunction in their lives,” said drama teacher Jon Polishak. “Dysfunction can be a dose of reality but can also be a dose of humour. Even if you don’t have family that you want to escape from, everybody has people in their lives they want to escape from.”
The story deals with a variety of themes woven around the characters including rejection, abandonment, responsibility, manipulation, loneliness and desperation. Cowan said the play really showcases what it means to be a family. The different characters also are relatable to anyone, added Wismath.
The four stars of Independence recently honed their skills at the Sears British Columbia Drama Festival earlier this month in New Westminster. Hope Secondary School earned an invitation to the annual event several years ago based on their performance at the zone festival.
The provincial event is organized by the Association of British Columbia Drama Educators and showcases secondary school drama productions from around the province. It provides opportunities for drama students to convene, celebrate each other’s performances, share ideas and attend high-calibre workshops. Cowan, who has attended the festival three times, said it’s inspiring to see the work other schools are doing.
“It’s definitely a bonding experience,” added Wismath. “It’s always great to get revamped in drama and theatre spirit.”
Independence is being staged inside the commons room at Hope Secondary School. Tickets to the show are $8.