HHSS to stage The Breakfast Club this week
By Darren Lum
What’s old is new again. The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 11/12 drama class is bringing the 1980s classic The Breakfast Club to the stage this week.
Released in 1985, the John Hughes produced and directed American movie is a seminal classic, depicting the struggles facing teenagers. The plot of the story is based on five high school students, serving detention on a Saturday. Each of them is representative of a typical clique, but share the same challenges of acceptance and approval from peers and parents.
To quote the movie’s (spoiler alert), letter ending scene: “Dear Mr.Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice the whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”
Abigail Kauffeldt, who is part of the cast and will perform a variety of duties to stage the show, said the movie resonates and is relevant to her and her cast mates, who watched it together after they chose to stage it.
“This provided us all with an even deeper understanding as well as desire to perform this play. After watching the production, there was so much the entire class and myself were able to take away from it,” she wrote in an email. “To me this play is so much more than the way it is perceived at first glance. The idea of this movie revolves around five teenagers from all different cliques, coming together to spend a Saturday at detention. The characters and their words are deep as well as meaningful to the play. They show feeling, emotion and compassion toward one another. Even though they are so different, they are all so similar as well. They all have issues with their families, peer pressure and the way they are perceived by the world. These are some of the many emotions teenagers are experiencing today.”
The cast includes Dakota Sawyer as John Bender, Cole Prentice as Andrew Clarke, Trista Greer as Claire Standish, Ruthie Parker as Allison Reynolds, Kauffeldt as Beth Johnson, and Krystin Hope as vice-principal Richard Vernon.
Abigail said her role was changed from male in the original to female to reflect contemporary society.
“I am in fact playing a female version of Brian Johnson, my character is named Beth Johnson instead. There are quite a few reasons we chose to change this character, one being the amount of gender fluidity we are experiencing in our world,” she wrote.
A perfectionist, Abigail identifies with her character, who is the classic academic overachiever.
“She is perceived as a brainiac or even a geek, but deep down she is looking for acceptance from her peers as well as family. She wants to be liked as well as loved. I share many traits that Beth has, including an ambitious attitude and always striving for being perfect in school,” she wrote.
Drama teacher Ryan Merritt said his role with the play is as a facilitator for the students.
He’s helping them explore the “characters’ conflict and relationships with each other and the outside world. As they explore these characters there they begin to identify and relate to the different characters [and what] motivates them or isolates them in their scenes. There have been many cathartic discussions as students identify with themes and characters in the play.”
Among the other options available was The Little Shop of Horrors and Chicago, both musicals.
"The principal viewed the play to get a sense of context and how language was being used to articulate the character and themes with the community in mind," Merritt said.
The play is intended for a “mature audience,” which starts from high school age and up.
The show opens Dec. 15 with a 2 p.m. matinee, followed by a 7 p.m. later that day. Evening performances will be on Dec. 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. To purchase tickets or for information call 705-457-2950.
Abigail is hoping the public comes away from watching the play with a new perspective on the teenage journey.
“I hope that the audience is able to walk away with the belief that this play is so much more than the superficial meanings and stereotypes that are put on it. I hope they are able to see a little into what goes on inside of a teenager’s life as well as be able to relate to some characters on a more personal level,” she wrote.
Correction: The original version of this story stated that the staging of The Breakfast Club had been altered to adhere to board guidelines. School staff clarified that the principal viewed the play for context and language use with the community in mind. It is not clear if there are board guidelines for creative arts and language. The story has been corrected.