Fri, May 17, 2024 7:00 AM

Finessed performance after a frantic fortnight


Elise Vollweiler

Usually putting on a theatre show is, well, quite a production, and one that takes many months from first read-through to closing night. This group of Tasman district home-schoolers are doing things a little differently.

From the grand script reveal to the costuming, props and lighting, right through to the final performance this Saturday evening, the 21 students are packing the whole production experience into two all-consuming weeks.

The process is being led by scriptwriter Douglas Roberts, who splits his time between Auckland and Scotland. Douglas has about 35 scripts to his name, some of which are originals and some, like this one, are created by reworking existing stories.

‘Joe of Arabia’ is based on Arabian Nights, featuring a protagonist who doesn’t particularly want to be in the story, two narrators who are doing their darndest to convince him to behave, and a host of sailors, traders and musicians who they encounter along the way.

Douglas says that it is important for him that all the children have a chance to play an actual character role “who has a personality and has lines to say” – no bit parts or chorus lines here.

The scripts were turned over 10 days ago, and the children, who range in age from 10 to 18, could finally see what parts they would be playing for the first “cold read”.

Many of the group members were strangers to each other before this process, but production manager and home-schooling parent Marien Ward says that the camaraderie came quickly.

“From the moment that we read the script, it’s just a sense of close friendship that started growing.”

Douglas says that the process builds a community where the children can trust each other and be vulnerable, without fearing judgement.

They’re also being taught to trust the process, even down to the mid-week ebb where energy wanes and uncertainty sets in. It is an intensive process, with the students doing nothing but this project during this fortnight.

Nathan Cheong, who plays King Jeroboam, says that the process was intense but that he is really enjoying himself.

“Douglas is a really good teacher,” he says.

Fellow cast member Tobias Ward, who plays the titular Joe, says that it has been a great environment of friendliness and working together.

He describes a feeling of “exhilaration and rush” to be getting to this point.

The show is being performed at the Tasman Church, beside Tasman Bay Christian School, on Friday 17 May at 7.30pm, and Saturday 18 May at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets cost $10 per person, and can be purchased here.

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