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Melissa.S

Caught in the Act

Melissa Shalagan

Volunteer with GP Century Play 

by Fringina Mukaga, Communications

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This year marks the City of Grande Prairie’s 100th anniversary and as part of the celebrations the city partnered with the GP Century Play Society, a local non-profit specifically established to produce a century themed play.  The play, co-written by local writers Kristjanna Gimmelt and Catherine McLaughlin, was titled “Chasing the Dream” and is based on historical research and stories gathered through over 200 interviews. Play director Annie Smith was charged with gathering a team of local volunteers to bring the outdoor theatre event of the century to life.

The scope of the GP Century Play required the involvement of well over 100 community members who would be dedicated to the completion of the project. One such volunteer is identified by Annie Smith who writes:

Melissa Shalagan was an incredibly pro-active volunteer. She took on many roles for the Century Play, beginning in September 2013, and continuing through to the end of June, 2014. She actively recruited others for the project, involved her family and community in Sexsmith, reached out to the business community for financial and gift in kind support, and was tireless in being an enthusiastic ambassador for the project.

Melissa was first intrigued by the project through a posting at Grande Prairie Live Theatre. Shortly after hearing about the project she met play director Annie Smith through a chance encounter. It was after this meeting with Annie that Melissa became inspired to join the GP Century Play. “Annie has so much vision and commitment to community theatre. Her welcoming personality and confidence in each person’s capacity to make a unique contribution inspired me,” says Melissa.

Initially, Melissa signed on as a reader for the development of the script, committing to once a week practices. Her initial impression was astonishment at the ambitiousness and diversity of the project. She describes the first script reading orientation meeting held at Annie’s house:

“…I was struck by the diversity of the volunteers involved with the project. [Individuals of different] ages, backgrounds experiences and economic realities all willingly brought their gifts, talents (and in many cases, complete inexperience) together so that we were able to produce something amazing!”

The inclusivity of the project is what appealed the most to Melissa. She describes being touched by a senior community member who was so thankful for the opportunity to realize a long-time dream through participation in the community play. The “creative cooperative” fostered by GP Century Play encouraged this busy mom of eleven to commit her family, time and energy to the completion of the project. She eventually took on a leadership role as the assistant stage manager for Act 2 Chasing the Dream, a position which according to Annie Smith, “required a huge commitment of time energy and focus.” As the assistant stage manager Melissa had to continually think “beyond the logistics of the moment.” In addition to attending to the green room and sorting through props, Melissa “choreographed the Lumbercamp Rag for Act 2 and other movement, such as the chuck wagon team, the dog team and the cygnets,” says Annie Smith.

With the understanding that personal benefits have emerged as a result of the volunteer efforts of others, for Melissa volunteering is a chance to give back. She explains: “volunteer support for any cause can make the difference between success and failure. Volunteers bring their experiences from other areas of life that enhance the work done by the professional.”  Through working with professionals, volunteers are also allowed the opportunity to learn new skills as was the case for Melissa who claims to have “learned so much from working with [Annie Smith]”. She encourages anyone interested in “ exploring their own identity through artistic expression…” to go out and volunteer for a community play as it “ provides  a forum to do that, gain experience, and network with others [while] benefitting the community as well as the individual.”  

 

GP Century Play Society 

Organization Profile

Community Plays were developed by the Colway Theatre Trust in the UK in the 1980's.  Basically, the concept is that a small group of theatre professionals are contracted by a community or community group to help them develop and perform a play to celebrate or mark an important event in that community's life.

See more at: http://www.gpcenturyplay.org/

GP Century Play Conatct:

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