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Focus: Important stories, thrillingly told

Okay, so what have we got this year?

It seems like the windmill this year’s plays collectively tilt at has something to do with self in relation to social justice.

In response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Focus is presenting two world premieres with a contemporary lens on Ukraine. This Is Our Life is an imaginative re-telling of The Tragically Hip songs through the eyes of a 17-year-old Ukrainian refugee, and ’72 examines the legacy of the Canada-Soviet summit series, which marks its 50th anniversary this September. 

In addition to these mainstage shows, there’s a vibrant assortment of short plays that will bring tears (of laughter) to your eyes, great stuff from the “ouch that hurts” school of funny, while others have an eye cocked on social consequences. Or, as my mother used to say, “Keep on doing that, and you’re going to get it!”

Focus is, above all, a chance for students to engage in the age-old art of playmaking. The audience doesn’t see the weeks of thought, fevered activity, debate, exaltation, and plain hard work that goes into bringing these plays to life in three dimensions. Witnessing the process in operation – more than 100 young actors pouring their all into the universe of these plays – is a profound lesson for anyone interested in education and is worth more than a dozen lectures about the vital role Focus plays in the life of our school. 

Here are some of this year’s highlights.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, this tragi-comic classic is an unforgettable critique of how society views mental illness and a tribute to individualistic principles.

Trying to find Chinatown
A superbly taut drama that muses on race, Trying to Find Chinatown explores the very different childhoods of two young men, one Asian and the other white, linked by circumstance and history.

Merchant of Showboat
As tension mounts in the wonderfully unsettling and fiercely smart drama, two men – one black, the other white – face the fact that the question of “who owns what?” can’t be considered until we stare the ugly truth in the face: that the question was once, not too long ago, “who owns who?”

This is a School Lockdown
This powerful response to the wave of school killings that have erupted in recent times offers no easy answers, but it is a play that everyone should see. A remarkable ensemble of SAC teenage actors articulates for those who can no longer speak for themselves. We would all do well to listen.

Ah, wella wella…it’s back! One of the most popular musicals of all time, Grease returns to the Wirth Theatre stage for our first live festival since 2019, and what a way to welcome you back to Focus! The show is so iconic it practically defines our view of 1950s American high schools awash with greasers, muscle cars, and squeaky-voiced girls wearing pink. Fifty years on, Grease is still the word!

For the complete schedule, click here.

Story by William Scoular
St. Andrew's College
15800 Yonge Street, Aurora, ON L4G 3H7 Canada
Tel: 905-727-3178