Three weeks of artistic immersion at Yorkton Regional High School ended on January 26 with a special performance in the Anne Portnuff Theatre.
Melville-raised dancer Shannon Litzenberger presented excerpts from HOMEbody, the production that she and three other Toronto-based artists have been developing at YRHS since the New Year. The excerpts were shown alongside another performance titled Home is… developed by YRHS's own Drama 10 and 20 students under the supervision of the four artists-in-residence this month.
A multimedia production combining dance, music, video, and the written word, the student performance focused on the high schoolers' concepts and memories of home.
The drama students trained under Litzenberger, artistic director Marie-Josée Chartier, writer Lindsay Zier-Vogel, and actor/technician Jef Mallory for three weeks to develop their skills in movement, voice, and creativity. It was the first time working under professional artists for most of the class.
Afterwards, Drama 20 student Ashley Lockert said she was "amazed" at how the experience brought her peers closer together.
"Before, even in class when we were doing our normal stuff, we never really talked to each other. We didn't connect to each other a lot."
All of that has changed now, said Lockert.
"We had to move as one, we had to think as one, and breathe as one. And with doing that, we've all started to understand each other better and grow up together in these last three weeks, which is immense. I'm so shocked at how much I can connect with people now and understand them because of this experience."
Shannon Litzenberger, too, was impressed by the students' progress this month and by their final product.
"They all brought their A-game and showed up and kind of put their hearts out there and did an amazing piece. I'm really proud of them."
Litzenberger and her fellow artists were in Yorkton this month to gather inspiration for the HOMEbody production, a portrait of Litzenberger's roots in rural Saskatchewan that the group plans to bring to the Toronto stage.
Part of that inspiration came from the YRHS students themselves, Litzenberger said.
"Some of them have come up with such beautiful material that we may find a way to incorporate it into the show."
At least one student contribution, an audio recording made by the school's Choir 10/20/30 students and teacher Brennan Risling, is already part of the show.
If HOMEbody finds success in Toronto, Litzenberger and her group hope to bring it back to Saskatchewan on tour.