Why We Tell The Story

Why We Tell The Story

by Lisa Swiercinsky, Secondary School Drama teacher

“Life is why we tell the story. 
Pain is why we tell the story. 
Love is why we tell the story. 
Grief is why we tell the story. 
Hope is why we tell the story. 
Faith is why we tell the story…”

Why do we feel the need to tell stories? How do our stories define us? Shape us? Communicate to others? These are the questions that the High School Drama Club has been exploring as they undertake this year's musical, Once on This Island, which opens November 30th in the YIS auditorium. 

Stories are what make us human. We have been telling stories around the fire since the dawn of time and that is precisely how this show starts - a group of people coming together to share a story to comfort a scared young girl in a storm. The audience is then transported into the world of the story, full of hope, life, pain, and grief. 

As our high school students, a few middle school students, and even one elementary school student have embarked on telling this story, they have realized the importance of collaboration, teamwork and reflection. 

High school students participate in a dance practice for Once On This Island

Part of the cast for the shows practice a dance routine in the Drama Studio.

There are a few key components that make this particular story and this particular production unique. The first is its setting, Japan. The show was originally written for a Caribbean island. However the directing team came together and discussed what could resonate with our community. As a result, Director Lisa Swiercinsky, decided to relocate it to Japan. With that relocation, it meant that all elements of the show would bring in aspects of Japanese culture. Our school’s Japanese Cultural Program Coordinator, Asako Clark, also assisted in helping bring this vision to life, providing valuable insight into how Japanese culture could be brought into the story in a truthful and respectful way.

A key component of setting it in Japan is the music. Japan has an extremely rich and distinct background in music and therefore, we decided to have a live orchestra made up of Middle and High school students along with two teachers, new music director Mr. David Lien, and our experienced Japanese music teacher, Mr. Curt Patterson. Having the distinct sounds of koto and taiko drums has allowed for unique choreography, staging and performance style. 

student musicians practising in a music room

The High School production's Music Director, David Lien, leads students and Japanese Music teacher Curt Patterson in a rehearsal for the shows.

Changing the setting to Japan has been a delicate process with input from the students, and has led to conversations about cultural appropriation, our unique understandings of Japan, what elements of a story define a culture, and what elements of a culture define a story. It has all come together though and as one student so simply, yet beautifully put it, “Japan is our island, this is our story.”

As we put the final touches on the show and get ready for opening night, the thing that is resonating in our students minds is the final, possibly most important answer to the question “Why do we tell the story”... “You are why we tell the story”. Our audience, with its diverse background, each member of the audience bringing in their own story and perspective make theatre the unique art form that it is. It is an opportunity for all of us to come together and share our stories.

Performances of Once On This Island will be held on:
Thu., Nov. 30 and Fri., Dec. 1, 6:00 pm, and Sat., Dec. 2, 1:00 pm
A link to purchase tickets is available to all YIS parents in the YIS Express.