Going back to school
U of R play deals with issues of difference and bullying
Nov. 2 -6
7:30 p.m.; $10; free with student ID
Just after I asked Nikki Elek, a fourth-year acting student at the University of Regina and lead actress in the theatre department’s Schoolhouse, the first question of our interview, her phone went off.
But Elek is anything but a diva. Like everything else about Schoolhouse, she handled the dropped call like a pro.
“I memorized a lot of lines,” joked Elek, when asked how she prepared for playing her character. Elek continued to joke throughout the interview, a sure sign of her ability to bring Miss Linton, the young protagonist of Schoolhouse, to life.
“She’s 18 years old and just got out of college, and all she wanted to do her whole life was teach,” Elek saod. “So she gets to this schoolhouse and she’s, you know, she’s quite feisty, she’s a firecracker, she represents in a very static community [something new]… she’s very modern.”
Linton is determined to turn a chaotic one-room country schoolhouse in the 1930s Canadian prairie she teaches in into a caring and compassionate environment.
Elek brought a lot of her past into her character, basing it off her second-grade teacher Miss Fargo.
“She kind of took the approach Miss Linton took, so I kind of drew from that,” Elek said. “Opposed to just looking at a board and just teaching in this way, she’s very artistic, she gets them to write in journals, she gets them to write fables, she keeps them busy so they don’t get into trouble. That’s kind of what my teacher did, so I drew from that.”
Schoolhouse’s themes are timeless, focusing primarily on what its like to be an outsider to a community.
“That’s basically what the play is about, just being different,” Elek said. “And like the norm is what we should be, and that’s right. And the whole play focuses on that’s not true.”
The play specifically deals with Miss Linton’s attempts to help a young boy from a reform school find his place in the school.
“We can offer insight into something that is actually being a huge issue in our world right now: bullying,” Elek said. “It’s not just entertainment – it’s entertaining, of course – but you’re taking something away from it as well.”
For Ashley Betteridge, a second-year stage management student and one of a team of three stage managers working on Schoolhouse, the play explores ways of teaching and dealing with bullying that are outside of what is considered the norm.
“It’s seeing how she works with the students,” Betteridge said. “And especially back in those days, punishment was the only way about it, but she’s more understanding,”
Elek echoes this sentiment, despite the fact that the setting of the play is a bit removed from present day
“You’re taking something that’s really specific, and it’s kind of like, ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?’ idea, right?” Elek said. “They had nothing, they didn’t have the technology, or really the education we had. So if this teacher can make it through something like saving this kid, why can’t someone in university be inspired to do the same thing?”