National Theatre School’s 2023 DramaFest – Puzzle of Innocence a life-changing event

Chisholm Academy’s Grade 12 Drama class held two public performances of Ethan J’s original play The Puzzle of Innocence in March: one at Chisholm and the second on-stage at Burlington Central High School as competitors in the prestigious National Theatre School DramaFest. 

Directed by Ms. Edwards, the talented cast included Danya Q., Ryley L., Kevin W., Ethan J., Ronan M., Shreya M., Jayden R., Jacob G. and John R. Josh S. Eddie B. and Quinton M. were on sound and lights, Ash S. was stage manager and Hope C. the stagehand. 

It all began with the script. Grade 12 cast member Ethan J. wrote The Puzzle of Innocence, a cleverly devised mystery play set in an escape room. He created the characters based on the personalities of the students in the Drama class. 

The adjudicator praised the high quality of the writing, stating that “Ethan’s script proved that critical and creative thinking are alive and well.”

The Grade 12 Drama class began rehearsals at the beginning of the second semester. Their first performance was during Period 4 on March 28 for all the students and staff at Chisholm. The next day, March 29, the cast spent the afternoon and evening at Burlington Central; the tech run was from 3:00 to 5:00, and the actual performance started at 7 p.m.

The tech run was the scariest part of the entire process. Ms. Edwards called Eddie B. “a superhero” for his superhuman ability to figure out a brand-new lighting board, design the lighting sequence, and input the codes in only two hours. It was extremely nerve-racking.

After the tech run, the hardest part was waiting to perform. While the cast was stuck in the dark corridor directly before going onstage, we were extremely nervous, but the moment we stepped on the stage, the nerves disappeared. I totally zoned into my character as Rosa the PI. The cast became a cohesive group. We not only got through the scenes perfectly, but we grew as actors. Ms. Edwards, who was watching from the sidelines, was emotionally moved as she watched her students “magically grow in character development and confidence” in the 25 minutes we were on the stage.

At the NTS DramaFest Awards Ceremony on April 1, we received the perfect award: “Outstanding Collaborative Ensemble.” Our script was all about working together despite major struggles to find a way out of the escape rooms as well as to uncover and set right a wrongful arrest and incarceration. The actual cast also had to work together through zillions of rehearsals, many issues and minor catastrophes, but we rose above them all and came together as a united ensemble. As much as I was nervous and scared to take on this acting project, when it was over, I felt like I could do anything. At the end of the DramaFest, Quinton M. told Ms. Edwards that “it was a life-changing experience.” I completely agree. 

Many thanks to my courageous fellow cast members, our incredible and persevering director, Ms. Edwards, the support of staff members, including the awesome Mrs. Laiken, Mrs. Moss, Ms. Curic and Mrs. Parsons, as well as our amazing Chisholm parents.

Written by Danya Q. (Grade 12 Drama Student)