Sports was the primary focus for Greg Hollett while growing up in Chemainus in the 1960s and ’70s, but he also developed a passion for the arts.
Through a variety of experiences, including Sandra Heydon’s famous Hospital Day shows, he honed his drama skills and was constantly exposed to the benefits and enjoyments derived from performing. Sister Crystal was also an accomplished singer.
Since becoming a teacher at Duncan Christian Elementary School and teaching senior drama classes to DCS high school students, Hollett has refined his talents further by writing plays that have provided some great opportunities for students to learn about their own abilities in stage productions.
Many previous DCS students have continued in dramatic roles at higher levels since graduating. Brenna Bazinet is perhaps the most notable in recent years and has not only become an accomplished actress and singer, but also a voice and piano teacher.
Bazinet thrived under Hollett’s tutelage at DCS and more students are reaping the same benefits, whether they’re in it for fun or thinking about related career pursuits in the future.
Hollett, who still lives in Chemainus, is back in fine form with A Fine Line following the pandemic void. It will be performed Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Duncan Christian School Elementary gym and there’s also a 2 p.m. Saturday show.
“This play was about to go on stage in April of 2020,” explained Hollett. “We all know what happened then.”
A couple of girls and guys in Grade 9 at the time couldn’t resist the chance to finally appear in A Fine Line.
“They said, ‘let’s do that same play,’” Hollett pointed out. “The play’s never been presented. It almost got presented.”
Back in 2019, he noted, Morgan Nederlof and Faith Telford did some writing and “it’s been adapted and edited a bit. I wrote it. I’ve rewritten the draft and with the students we’ve done edits.”
A Fine Line could be described as a West Side Story or Grease style of musical, with the Hatfields vs. McCoys type of conflict.
It’s set in late 1959/early 1960s in a medium-sized town where there is a deep divide and tension between the preppy kids and the greasers. As tensions and jealousy mount, a new girl comes to town who is not part of it and won’t pick sides. Soon, some begin to think it is time for a change.
These teens discover change is hard when prejudice is deeply-entrenched. They soon realize tensions and trouble must come before real change can occur. It’s a fine line.
“There’s a definite disconnect between the two sides,” Hollett stressed. “They’re wrestling with the hurts of the past and see if they can overcome those patterns and make a better society for all.”
The 29 students in Hollett’s drama class are all involved as actors and also in the sets, costumes, painting, lights and sound. “They’re doing it all,” he said.
That includes a significant representation of two girls from Chemainus playing main roles – Lucy Lavigne as one of the greaser girls and Megan Monahan as a preppy girl.
“I suppose I always had an appreciation for the arts and performing,” said Lavigne, a Grade 12 student whose father Ken is a famous tenor singer. “It’s still nerve-racking, I’ll tell you that.
“It’s been a pretty good experience. Mr. Hollett’s been supportive and encouraging.”
Rehearsals have been much longer in the last couple of weeks leading up to the play.
“Just as we’re getting close, more time has to be put in,” noted Lavigne. “It’s a lot of effort from all of us.”
Monahan, 16, a Grade 11 student, is thoroughly enjoying the experience. “I’ve never really been in any plays before,” she said.
“I’ve always been involved with music. I played piano and I was on our worship team at school. I never tried acting till now and I like it.”
As a preppy named Georgina, Monahan’s acting skills get a test with a characterization that’s nothing at all like herself.
“I pronounce words wrong in the play a lot,” she indicated. “I’m kind of the ditsy character.
“I think my character’s funny, even if the audience is laughing at me and not with me. That’s OK.”
The play also includes Grade 11 students Seth Fordham and Micah Galbraith from Thetis Island and Tanya Thompson, a recent arrival in Crofton who’s also in Grade 11.
Fordham plays a greaser kid and “he’s a bit of a goofball,” he said. “I roll pretty good with it. I like being a bit of a goof.”
Fordham has been at Duncan Christian School since Grade 8.
“I haven’t done any stage stuff before,” he pointed out.
But he has been in a few Hallmark productions as the background personnel you don’t always notice unless you look closely.
It’s a big commitment for someone like Fordham to be in a play, with the ferry considerations taken into account.
“I love rehearsals,” he said. “I’m not always able to be at them. When I do attend, I pull myself into it and I love it. You put in a good effort, you reap the rewards.”
Galbraith has also been at Duncan Christian School since Grade 8. He’s portraying Kenny, one of the greasers, who blends into the crowd and doesn’t have any lines in the play.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Galbraith. “But it takes a lot of time.”
He’s been in Christmas plays during elementary school, but nothing like this. “This is the first one I’ve volunteered for,” he noted.
Thompson just turned 17 on April 19. She previously went to Mount Douglas Secondary in Victoria.
As Catherine, “I’m a greaser, but I’m kind of an in-between,” said Thompson. “I don’t really care. I’m a waiter, too, and I don’t look like a greaser.”
Thompson actually has a lot of acting and dancing experience over the years so this is right up her alley.
“I always liked dancing as a kid,” she said. “Dancing is something I don’t think I could live without. My mom always danced with us in the living room and stuff. It just kept going.”
Hollett likes what he sees in the work ethic and the talent of the students.
“They’ve come a very long way in their acting, performance and singing ability,” he praised.
An opening night dinner theatre is extra special, with all proceeds going towards the DCS Mission trip May 14-21 to help build a house for a Mexican family in need.
It’s hoped to raise up to $1,500 at the dinner that will have a ‘50s diner theme with burgers, fries, sundaes, floats, prizes, party favours, trivia, ’50s music and more. Students will be dressed up in costume and serving guests their dinners.
Tickets for A Fine Line are $6 for children, $10 for youth and $15 for adults, available at the school or by calling 250-746-3654.