Students at Victoria School of the Arts in downtown Edmonton are creating a musical production in support of their LGBTQ+ peers.
“We do an original film that we take to film festivals and premiere at the end of the year at our big Eva O. Howard Theatre,” explained teacher Chris Aanderson.
“Every year we’re trying to come up with something that really touches on what the students are dealing with. So this year it was gay-straight alliances in schools.”
One Voice tells the story of a group of students pushing school administrators to allow them to form a gay-straight alliance.
“I play the principal of the school, Mr. Smith, and he’s dead set against GSAs — he wanted to keep everything very conformist,” Vance Avery said. “He wants to keep the school in order. It’s something new for him and he doesn’t want to get involved in any controversy.”
Avery is a professional actor who’s toured the world in shows like Les Misérables and The Revival of Cabaret. He lives in the United States now, but came home to help the students with their film because he believes the subject matter is important.
“Growing up and learning about tolerance and acceptance and respect for others, it’s invaluable,” he said.
“I hope it will change some minds and affect some hearts.”
A large number of cast and crew members involved in the production identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“The story and the characters in this film relate a lot to my life and a lot of people that I know here, because I run the school’s GSA with some of my friends,” explained student actress Amelia Troughton.
“We’ve been a really wonderful accepting environment for 25 to 30 years, so a lot of the LGBTQ+ students come here as a safe space,” Aanderson said.
But students at Victoria know not all schools are as accepting as theirs.
“I want people to realize that we do need GSAs and we do need those safe places for people to gather and be themselves,” Troughton said.
Watch below: Thousands of students across Alberta walked out of class Friday. As Kent Morrison explains, they’re protesting Premier Kenney’s plan to amend the policy surrounding gay-straight alliances.
“Our hope with this show is that people get to see it, get educated on what GSAs are and also to respect all the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community has had over their long history,” Aanderson explained.
Not all of the students are acting. Others are more interested in the work that happens behind the scenes with lighting, cameras, makeup and sound. In total, more than 100 students are involved in One Voice.
“We’ve been in the recording studio with the students, going through dance rehearsals, rehearsing since about November. Now we’re into the last days of our 22-day film shoot to make it happen,” Aanderson said.
The film premieres at the Eva O. Howard Theatre on May 31 at 7 p.m.