Girls at crossroads hold audience in play’s thrall

17 Apr 2013

By Matthew Biddle

Santa Maria students play characters at the cross-road of discerning their God-given vocation in Daughters of Venice. PHOTO: SANTA MARIA

Students and staff at Santa Maria Catholic College in Attadale staged five enthralling showings last week of the school’s production, Daughters of Venice.

The school’s theatre was filled to capacity for each performance from Wednesday night’s opening to Sunday evening’s final show.

In total, more than 700 people saw the show over the five nights.

Daughters of Venice is set in 18th century Venice and follows the story of three orphaned girls who are cared for by the sisters of the Pieta convent.

Having reached the age of twenty, each girl must decide which path to follow in life. The options are to become a religious sister or to marry, as explained to the girls by the mother superior of the convent, played by Alex de Graaf.

The play showcased a number of outstanding performances complemented by several extravagant costumes and original Venetian masks.

Preparation for the production began last year, steadily becoming more intense closer to the date of the first show.

“We started the process of choosing a script, getting it cast, designing sets and costumes in September last year,” Amanda Huxtable, the show’s director, said.

Rehearsals began in January, and over the weekend prior to the show’s opening, the performers spent more than 15 hours rehearsing.

The cast of 32 included 23 girls from years 10, 11 and 12, most of whom had performed before.

Ms Huxtable said Daughters of Venice was the perfect story to produce.

“It’s got a lot of roles for women,” she said. “Being an all-girls school, it is always a challenge to find a script that has some substantial roles for girls.”

The performance also included music from the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, who wrote many musical pieces for the Pietà convent – the setting of Daughters of Venice.

“Because the girls in the Pietà were playing the music and singing his songs, that’s how he started to become renowned for his music,” Ms Huxtable said.

The performers told The Record last week that they had auditioned for the production for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to be a part of a group project and hoping to improve their acting.

Annie Craig, who played the Contessa di Montefalcone, said the girls all took their acting very seriously.

“Most of us … went to New York last year and saw plays on Broadway, so we’re probably all pretty inspired by that,” the year 12 student said.

Ms Huxtable said the performing arts helps to build strong relationships between individual students and also between students and staff.

“That’s something that we value quite highly,” she said.

“Working with each other outside of the classroom, sometimes in very highly stressful and emotional circumstances, you become very close. It’s one of the activities in the college where the students really mix across the year groups that are selected.”

Ms Huxtable said she thoroughly enjoyed directing the performance and seeing the development in the girls.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s at times quite stressful, and you put your heart and soul into making the show all come together for the girls.

“Seeing them develop and blossom throughout the process and then seeing the end product always blows me away and I’m so very proud of what they achieve and how hard they work.”

Santa Maria’s middle school production will take place later this year.

Santa Maria Catholic College in Attadale was established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1937, and currently has about 1200 students. It is celebrating its 75th anniversary throughout this year.