By Leeanne McLim, Theatre Director and Integrated Studies Teacher:
On its surface, The Addams Family are kooky and hilarious. Stories involving characters we have known and loved for years. But truly, despite their doom and gloom persona, The Addams Family have a remarkably positive attitude towards life. They frequently see the beauty in the world, even if their definition of it differs from ours. The Addams Family The Musical is the perfect tale of love and acceptance; two key philosophies we encourage at Calgary Academy. And while some of the Addams Family values certainly taught us numerous lessons and values we treasure in our inclusive CA culture, it is also at the very heart of this play. A theme that certainly bodes well with all of us at CA and an important reason this play was selected.
At its heart, the Addams family has always been a keen Gothic metaphor for anyone who has ever felt like an outcast for embracing the macabre. Nevertheless, in the Integrated Studies department we value individuality and accept and embrace each other’s differences. This is exactly what The Addams Family teach us; to love your individuality and celebrate your uniqueness.
At the time this show was chosen, my best friend, who ironically was a mortician, joked that with our own unique backgrounds it must mean that we were distant relations of the Addams Family ourselves. We had worked together in the professional theatre world, her sharing her technical talents and myself at the helm as director/actor/choreographer over the years. Many phone calls regarding this show about design ideas, costumes, casting, etc. during the beginning rehearsal weeks were shared as the birth of CA’s production of The Addams Family began. However, recently, I lost her, therefore making the success of this show even more motivating for me personally. A cathartic, passion project of sorts. A special tribute to perhaps one of the most quirky and misunderstood spirits I have ever known. A true Addams at heart, and an individual who sought acceptance her entire life but hadn’t found that nurturing, inclusive, family like we are blessed with at Calgary Academy.
There have been many other storms during the rehearsal process of this show. Many obstacles and a variety of challenges. But as the cast sings, “only at our lowest, can we rise above”, we have certainly learned during our time as a cast and crew together that it takes a challenge to really bring out the best in any group of people. As a cast, we have learned not just skills, but the lesson of how to grow through what we go through. It is in times of hardship and change when you find out what you are really made of.
And through it all, the IS and Creative Team has formed a family of its own, and the after school rehearsals has become a place where many of us, teacher volunteers and students, could temporarily retreat from daily life into a world that is distinctly “other”. A place where we could create – and for a time live in – an alternate reality. And for a few hours of our time, we all were able to transcend to that “other” place where life is enchanting, obstacles seem impossible, and life is both heartbreaking and heroic. As a team, we have created a safe place that encourages students to continue questioning, exploring and teasing out new ideas and ways of living and thinking. A place for creating and making, collaborating, exploring and responding in the search of our true selves and meaningful connections with others and the world around us. A bond which promotes strength, unity, reliability and support. And ironically, through it all, the stress and adventure of putting on a show is exactly the environment that fosters friendships that will last a lifetime.
At CA and in the IS department we breed dreamers. We continue to bring to this world individuals who believe in following their hearts, using their voices, and believing in who they are and who they can be. And that…is the CA Way. And while we may not share the Addams Family’s enthusiasm for exploding trains or carnivorous plants, and we certainly don’t encourage our children to play with hatchets, we could all learn a thing or two from The Addams Family about gratitude, friendship, compassion, and a general outlook on life.