It’s no secret that Covid-19 has impacted greatly on the world of performing arts. Theatres are under daily threat of closure. Actors and musicians are despairing for their futures. The majority of plays, concerts and ceremonies have been postponed. Even Shakespeare’s Globe recently made a desperate plea for funding to avoid insolvency. In a public display of solidarity, the great composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, volunteered to take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial, highlighting that time is of the essence to save the Arts.
Sacred Heart Secondary School in Clonakilty has run a spectacular theatrical show each year for the last 41 years. Under the experienced direction of Mrs Eileen Nolan from the Montfort School of Performing Arts, this annual spectacle has been a huge success and is part of Clonakilty’s culture. Shows ranging from Oklahoma! to My Fair Lady, from Annie to Les Misérables, are included in the impressive log of past performances. Hundreds of girls have taken part over the years and some even go on to study drama, inspired by their time on the school stage. However this year, for the first time since its creation, the popular Sacred Heart show had to be cancelled.
I started teaching English and French in Sacred Heart in 2007. The show was South Pacific that year. I had seen school musicals before, but never on this scale. There was a choir, an orchestra, actors, singers, set designers, and stage hands. Professional sound and lighting. I sat in the packed auditorium and stared open-mouthed at the students as they were transformed into Nellie and Emile, Bloody Mary and Lieutenant Cable. Quiet girls I was accustomed to seeing in their green uniform were suddenly strangers. In front of me were professionals, singing their hearts out, utterly convincing in their costumes. A standing ovation at the end was inevitable, the audience clapping with thunderous applause.
You see, the show at Sacred Heart has always been akin to a Broadway or West End production. The whole school would get involved – students and staff alike. The Music Department would practise for weeks upon weeks, training the singers and guiding the orchestra. The Art Department would design and paint the sets. The IT Department would organise the printing of programmes and tickets. Some staff would volunteer to supervise the actors’ makeup and hair; others would organise the costumes and props. There were many hands on deck to make the show a success. It was inclusive on a whole-school level and showcased the incredible talent of the student body.
My own daughters were involved in the show throughout the years and it was an unforgettable experience for my family. The auditions. The anticipation. After-school and weekend rehearsals. Lemon and honey to soothe the voices. Crippling nerves before opening night. Then, the best week of the school year. Sold-out show after sold-out show. Camaraderie, feelings of accomplishment, adrenaline, elation, and pride.
Performing arts in education is crucial as it enhances emotional intelligence, broadens the imagination and helps children develop as well-rounded, empathetic human beings. Performance boosts self-confidence and changes perspective. It inspires, it motivates, it engages.
The stage at Sacred Heart may lie dormant at the moment, but this is temporary. 2020 certainly will not rain on our parade. The sun will come out tomorrow. The show must and WILL go on. This great tradition will continue in the future, when it is safe to do so.
Well done to all the girls and staff who dressed up for our No Uniform Day. Great fun and wonderful to hear the sound of laughter along the corridors!