THEATER troupe students at Rivercole River Heights School will now have something in common with actors like Tom Hanks, Adam Driver and Zoë Kravitz.
Shortly after the dismissal bell rang Wednesday, 13 theater students in grades 7 and 8 made history by becoming the first junior thespians from a Manitoba school inducted into the esteemed International Thespian Society.
“I’m really excited for tonight,” said Hamza Kinnarath, a Grade 8 student. “I feel like if this were a play, this would be the climax.”
Kyle Collins, theater troupe director at Rivercole River Heights School, said society membership gives students confidence and prestige to proceed into the acting world.
“It gives (the students) the goal to work towards their own professional growth, or their own artistic growth, rather,” Collins said. “It creates an understanding of what a student is capable of and what their level of dedication is if they go to new markets.”
The troupe performed at three theater festivals this school year – Canadian National Thespian Festival, Destination Imagination and Manitoba Drama Youth Festival – where they won gold and silver in multiple categories.
For every 10 hours of community theater or extracurricular work, students receive one point. To be inducted into the society, students must obtain 10 points (100 hours).
Grade 8 student Amara Wiste said having the troupe at school makes it more accessible for students.
“I think it gives a lot of people opportunity. It’s right after school, so you don’t have to go anywhere,” Amara said.
Ahead of the gala, the theater troupe students expressed appreciation for Collins.
“Our teacher is extremely passionate about making and giving us the best that he can,” said Marah Gervais, a Grade 7 student. “He’s giving us opportunities, he’s letting us compete at festivals and activities, and I think it really elevates the troupe.”
Marah and Hamza were two of the three Grade 7 students inducted from the troupe.
During the festival circuit, Rivercole River Heights School students snagged three blue, or superior-level, ribbons out of the 15 awarded to Canadian students.
Collins said the program is lucky to receive ample support from school principal Dominic Zagari.
Zagari, who was in attendance for the ceremony, said the troupe has greatly enriched the lives of the students. “It brings confidence to these kids that would otherwise hide in the shadows and not want to speak.”
The success has had a domino effect across the city. Collins said other high school theater teachers plan to establish their own troupes.
Above all, Collins said the sense of camaraderie and teamwork is what powers the troupe.
“It’s been a really great year on the festival circuit, but the real win comes with the experiences we’ve shared, the friendships we’ve made, and the time we got to spend together doing creative things again,” Collins said.