Friday, March 2, 2007

Gangs Need Safe Place To Fight, Dance, Sing: Union

Local student production of WSS runs into a few roadblocks:

A high school in The Beach's production of West Side Story is back on after a drama teacher briefly pulled the plug, citing roadblocks levelled by the board and a trades' union over safety concerns and the fact that students -- not union workers --constructed a stage.

The musical's potential cancellation prompted more than 100 Malvern Collegiate Institute students to demand the show be resurrected during an emotional, impromptu assembly in the school's auditorium yesterday.


The musical's near-death experience began when the play's director, drama teacher Erich Lehrer, decided to build an ambitious new stage from scratch in the centre of the auditorium for three shows March 29, 30 and 31.

The idea, Mr. Lehrer said, was to create a "theatre-in-the-round" experience with the audience circling the stage.

A crew of student volunteers led by a former-student-turned-carpenter came into the school on a recent Saturday to unfasten 174 chairs bolted to the auditorium floor and to construct most of the stage.

Shortly afterward, a member of the Maintenance, Construction & Skilled Trades' Council -- which represents plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other tradespeople contracted by the Toronto District School Board -- came into Malvern to do some work and noticed the new stage. The worker reported it to his union.

Jimmy Hazel, the council's president, said his chief concern was that the stage had been built without a permit, proper designs or the supervision of a union carpenter.

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