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Terrace French school brings musical theatre to Prince Rupert

A free performance of Flammèche sur la Skeena scheduled for Lester Centre June 23 at 1 p.m.
Students from École Jack-Cook perform their musical Flammèche sur la Skeena at Mount Elizabeth Secondary School in Kitimat June 2. (Contributed ) Students from École Jack-Cook in Terrace perform their musical Flammèche sur la Skeena at Mount Elizabeth Secondary School in Kitimat June 2. (Contributed photo)

What started out as a pandemic writing activity for students at École Jack-Cook in Terrace has turned into a full-fledged travelling musical that visited Smithers June 13.

Marc-Olivier Chouinard, who has been a music teacher at the French school in Terrace for the past five years, started the project to keep students engaged.

“We wrote songs,” he said. “But after five or six songs, I [thought] why don’t we put it into a musical with some play in it.”

Chouinard and the Terrace students collaborated with François Tardif, an old friend of Chouinard’s in Quebec via Zoom and the musical Flammèche sur la Skeena (Sparks on the Skeena) was born.

“It’s super fun, because it all came from ideas from the kids,” Olivier said.

The story centres around Pietra, a girl who can speak to the animals and her friends, Laxibu the wolf leader, Richard the fox, Aguila and Raguedy the eagles and all the salmon of the Skeena Valley, who live in harmony until the arrival of a logger, Bob La Flammèche.

“This villain is a true destroyer of the beauty of nature,” reads a synopsis of the play. “With the help of Richard the fox, he will try to take over the beautiful Skeena Valley. Will the habitants of the Skeena Valley survive his attempt to destroy them?”

After two years of working on the musical, they debuted it in June 2022 at the R.E.M. Lee Theatre for all the schools in Terrace. For anglophone students English subtitles were projected on a screen.

But Chouinard and the school weren’t done with Flammèche sur la Skeena. This year, they wanted to take the show on the road.

Chouinard said it was very well received in Kitimat on June 2, in Smithers on June 13 and in Prince Rupert on June 23.

In Smithers they were unable to get Della Herman Theatre and ended up putting it on at the Glenwood Hall.

“We transformed the show for a smaller stage and smaller audiences and it turned out to be super fun for all the kids.

“We had some students from Hazelton, immersion students came to the show and some students from Smithers, so it was super fun.”

He also noted all 62 members of École Jack-Cook community have a role in the production, whether it’s acting, producing, playing in the band or executing the technical aspects of putting it on.

In Prince Rupert the show hit the big stage and the Lester Centre for the Arts.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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