On Thursday 4 August, 125 dedicated young performers representing 26 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will take to the stage to perform in the original ASPIRE production, There's something strange about Marvin McRae.
Led by Artistic Director and the show's creator, Anna Kerrigan, ASPIRE, the 2015 City of Newcastle Drama Awards (CONDA) award nominated performing arts program, invites talented students in Years 5 to 12 from across the diocese to showcase their vocal, instrumental, drama and dance performance skills.
In its fifth year, the audition-based ASPIRE boasts the biggest cast to date and a completely original story and script punctuated by a host of popular tracks ranging from Pat Benatar's classic anthem, "Love is a Battlefield" to Coldplay's beautifully haunting "Shiver", all performed by the ASPIRE band and vocal ensemble comprised solely of young musicians.
The story centres on Marvin, a young boy who is going to high school next year who is obsessed with the fact that he is weird and wonders if his imaginary friend Gus might be part of the problem. When disaster strikes, Marvin wonders if a heroic act could bring everyone to accept him.
The inspiration for the story came from Anna's experiences with students and her own quest to be normal and "cool" during her years at school.
"I'm weird!" is something I hear all the time from young people I work with," says Ms Kerrigan.
"Students are often ready and comfortable to share what it is that makes them different and embrace their quirks, which is fabulous, however there are still many students who try to hide their idiosyncrasies for fear of ridicule.
This rather existential notion of aspiring to be normal is at the heart of the script and with it the overarching theme of acceptance of both each other and of ourselves."
Anna is an advocate for making one's own theatre and relishes the number of students who have contributed to this year's production, directly and indirectly.
"Making your own theatre empowers those who are involved in the writing and gives an opportunity to comment on the world around us," says Ms Kerrigan.
"I believe it is a very important tool, particularly for young people to decipher the world around them."
The show's lead part is played by St Pius X High School student, Ben Doran, who has been involved in ASPIRE since 2014, and is supported by seven students who have performed in the show since the first performance in 2012.
Tickets to all ASPIRE performances: Thursday 4 August, 11:00am; Friday 5, 11:00am and 7:00pm; Saturday 6, 7:00pm are available from the Civic Theatre box office or through Ticketek.
WHAT: ASPIRE – There's something strange about Marvin McRae – photo, video streaming and interview opportunities with students and organisers.
WHO: Organisers, including Anna Kerrigan (who wrote the script), 125 Catholic school students performing and over 1200 Catholic school students in attendance
WHERE: Civic Theatre, Hunter Street, Newcastle
WHEN: Thursday, 4 August. Interview opportunities from 9:00am – 10:00am, Performance: 11:00am – 1:00pm
To arrange a photo or interview with students or teachers taking part in ASPIRE from your local area or to RSVP for Thursday's matinee performance, please contact the Catholic Schools Office Communications Manager, Alyssa Faith, on 0428 234 961.