Jason O’Keeffe

Jason O’Keeffe

Aspengrove students win Youthwrite competition

NANAIMO - Aspengrove Grade 10 class wins B.C. Youthwrite competition and chance to perform during drama festival in New Westminster.

The mind of a troubled artist is a haunted world.

It’s a world of demons and desperation and a fight against reality. The story of Vincent van Gogh’s inner troubles in an asylum was the subject of a tale penned by the Aspengrove Grade 10 fine arts class.

For more than five months the 19 students collaborated during the writing process to bring the story to life. Hours of work was thrown out and started again to perfect the production.

But that hard work paid off when the class learned it was one of three high schools chosen as winners for the B.C. Youthwrite competition.

Only three winners are chosen and the class gets to perform their piece during the Sears British Columbia Drama Festival at Douglas College in New Westminster. The festival runs May 2-5.

The play, called Van Gogh: Before the Legacy, is the story of the artist’s life before he became famous.

“It’s about him in the asylum and his experiences with the doctors and his fighting his own mind,” said Jason O’Keeffe, who plays Dr. Gachet in the show.

The stage is split in two and each side is a mirror image of the other. One side represents reality where David Nuamah plays van Gogh and the other side in van Gogh’s inner self with Brayden Reynolds performing.

“The story is him battling his reality and his haunted side and ultimately the haunted side wins,” said Nuamah.

The show is written, directed, staged and performed by the Grade 10 class with the supervision of Aspengrove teachers Jill McElwain and Dustin Orser.

“They have written some pretty extreme imagery and it really tells the tale,” said McElwain. “We feel really honoured to be invited to perform. Only three schools maximum are invited to perform. It’s amazing.”

The students were told they won the B.C. Youthwrite Competition during a school assembly.

“It was extremely overwhelming…I started screaming,” said Jasmine Chen.

Jin Young Lim, who also helped write the play said she was speechless at first.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said.

Before the students perform the play in New Westminster they are staging the play in Parksville’s Community Conference Centre Monday (April 29) at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the evening will go to the Mid-Island Branch of the Canada Mental Health Association.