Category Archives: Ridley News

The St. Catharines Standard: Cappies Reviews of Ridley’s ‘The Tempest’

THE CAPPIES: Ridley presents The Tempest

Students peer review Ridley Colllege’s stage production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Show leaves audience breathless

Shayla Kirk 
Greater Fort Erie Secondary School

Themes of power, oppression, romance, and sorcery combine to create an exceptional story full of ebullient comedy, wondrous musicality and the unpredictability of human experience.

What was believed to be William Shakespeare’s last play, Ridley College’s rendition of The Tempest explores the ideas of power and powerlessness. The original Celtic Maritime songs created eeriness and euphoria throughout the scenes. Staged at the turn of the century in Nova Scotia, the play recounts the story of the sorcerer and rightful Duke of Milan Prospero, played by Uju Nwadike, and her ravishing daughter Miranda, played by Monika Morcous, who have been marooned on the island.

Conjuring up a powerful and deadly storm which Ridley’s lighting, sound, and props depicted marvelously, Prospero lures her usurping sister Antonia, played by Cassandra Mitchell, complicit King Alonso of Naples, played by Wyatt Niblett-Wilson, and numerous other characters towards the island they inhabit. There, Prospero’s machinations along with the help of her loyal servant Ariel, played by Anastasia Guzenko, bring about the disclosure of Antonia’s lowly nature, the redemption of the king, and the joyous marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda.

The play creates moments of seriousness among impromptu dance numbers, unexpected songs, and fast-acting sleeping spells that leave the audience breathless. Although, the show’s brilliance heavily relied on Ridley’s mastery of the balance between comedy and drama, and the supernatural and mystical. Through each character’s experiences, you’re transported backwards in time to an age of subjection and discovery, recognizing how a thirst for power can consume your identity.

In terms of visual and technological effects, stage manager David Biggar and assistant stage manager Emma Jenkins excelled in their performances behind stage.

The original projection work used on the sail of the life-like ship was amazingly crafted, and constantly changing to set the scene for each new occurrence. The lighting and sound operated expertly, especially during the beginning storm scene. Through the use of fog, co-ordinating flashes of light, booms of thunder, and outstanding actions from the talented cast, a sense of foreboding was created.

The music proved to be a highlight of the show as the cast, on various occasions, sang collectively in perfect harmony. It was truly music to the ears. Right from the start as Stephano, played by Padraic Odesse, began his singing narration to the end when the entire cast sang farewell, this musical transformed the emotions of the audience.

This impressive work is proof of the extensive skills of the cast and crew. Through their ability to utilize the setting and musical elements, they created an exceptional rendition of The Tempest.

This musical truly deserves the name of magnificent masterpiece.

Maritime twist given to 400-year-old play

Stephanya Zimakas 
Saint Paul Catholic High School

Hunger for power and control, the good and evil in humanity, the blossoming of romance, and magic — all with a musical twist — what’s there not to love? Ridley College’s musical interpretation of the Shakespearean classic The Tempest is a spectacular production that will have you tapping your toes and wanting to sing along.

The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s final masterpieces, recently celebrated its 400th anniversary.

The play was given new life on the stage of Ridley, with the addition of a Maritime musical sound track. Ridley’s rendition of The Tempest had musical pieces written by the talented Stan Rogers, and performed by the amazing school music ensemble All The Boatswain’s Crew, giving the audience a vision of the Maritimes at the turn of the century.

The Tempest is set on an isolated island, inhabited by the power-hungry Prospero (Uju Nwadike). Prospero takes siege of the island, with its magical inhabitants, and causes a tempest that strands new inhabitants on the island, creating new alliances and relationships, as well as a hunger for control.

Nwadike’s portrayal of Prospero was fantastic. Ridley’s director made a bold choice by casting a female lead as Prospero, but Nwadike brought a unique sense of power and regality to the stage, giving a portrayal of this character that was deep and real.

Aquila Wibisono gave an outstanding performance as Caliban, a native to the island and slave to Prospero. Wibisono brought to light Caliban’s deep emotions, his desire for freedom, and the anger at getting his homeland taken away. Aquilia also gave a stunning vocal performance in singing his song Creep.

However, what really made the musical shine was its talented supporting cast. Anastasia Guzenko, who played Ariel and also choreographed, was wonderful in her role and gave Ariel a sense of mystery and magic with her voice and spectacular use of movement. The romantic relationship between Miranda (Monika Morcous), daughter of Prospero, and Ferdinand (Nicholas Hayward) was dramatic and extremely comedic. Padraic Odesse, who played Stephano, gave an amazing vocal performance at the opening of the show with Barrett’s Privateers and lead the closing song Northwest Passage.

Furthermore, along with Trinculo (Raylon Chan) and Caliban, he gave a hysterical comedic and vocal performance that had the audience in stitches.

Choreography created by Anastasia Guzenko was mesmerizing and mysterious, and worked well with the ensemble work of the magical and whimsical spirits. The lighting and special effects complemented the show, and the technical crew did a great job of creating a realistic storm. Foregoing the use of microphones offered a challenge to the actors, but gave the show a more intimate feeling for the audience.

Overall, this production of The Tempest is a remarkable musical rendition of a classic that should be seen by all. Ridley has produced a piece of dramatic and musical art that will leave audiences wanting for more.

Tempest musical a risk well-rewarded

Michaela Bax-Leaney 
Eden High School

Two unlikely worlds collided masterfully during Ridley College’s musical adaptation of The Tempest.

This utterly unique take on the show merged the last of Shakespeare’s works with turn-of-the-century Canadian Maritime folk music. Mysticism and dry humour paired perfectly, and the cast and crew flawlessly married drama and comedy on the stage.

Prospero the sorcerer (Uju Nwadike) with the help of the spirit Ariel (Anastasia Guzenko), crashes her sister Antonia’s (Cassandra Mitchell) ship onto the island where Prospero lives.

Previously, Antonia had dethroned Prospero and abandoned her on the island with her daughter, Miranda (Monika Morcous). Prospero is hungry for revenge.

The shipwrecked party finds themselves split into groups, and the story follows their trials and tribulations as they roam the island, each in search of something different — power, romance, or simply another drink.

Guzenko’s breathtaking movement pieces, all of which were original, were invaluable to the narrative. For the untrained ear, Shakespeare can be difficult to understand. The way in which movement and body language was used helped enormously in bridging that gap. This was particularly evident in scenes with the ensemble of Spirits, where the fluid and well-synchronized motions conveyed emotions more intimately than dialogue ever could.

Caliban (Aquila Wibisono) and Antonia (Cassandra Mitchell) had incredible stage presences bolstered by their mastery of physical movement. The horrifying elegance of Mitchell’s tortured seizures, and the groveling postures of Wibisono made theirs two performances not likely to be forgotten.

The raw power in Nwadike’s performance was another unforgettable element of the show. Her rich purple robes glittered in the spotlight, and her voice commanded the attention of every audience member during her monologues.

With the integration of Canadian folk music came live instruments performed both on and off stage. However, there was also some original music written and performed on the violin by Petrina Mo. Mo’s pieces keened as the characters struggled, and heightened the emotion so that it was nearly palpable.

Emma Jenkins many masterpieces appeared in this production, from her makeup and projection design to the lighting and sound designed alongside David Biggar.

The projection was a particularly unique element on the main set piece, the jutting carnage of the shipwrecked vessel. The sail of the ship shifted between patterns and colours, which not only matched the tone of the play, but in some cases aided in the telling of the story.

Turning The Tempest into a musical may have been a risk, but it was a risk well rewarded. The music matched the tone of the show perfectly, and made comedic scenes infinitely funnier.

But beyond the punchlines, the show raised questions of power, influence, and morality — questions that, in an ever polarizing political climate, cannot go unanswered. It explored the concept of power, and how power dynamics shape our personal relationships as well as the world around us. How do we get power, why do we seek power, and what happens when our power is lost?

What are the Cappies?

Cappies Niagara is a critics and awards program for high school theatre and journalism that’s all about student reviews of student productions.

Schools in the region participating in Cappies train high school theatre and journalism students as critics, who then attend shows at other schools and write reviews.

Their reviews are submitted, anonymously, for review by a Cappies teacher. The top three reviews are published in the newspaper after each of the plays is performed. At the end of the season, the student critics and performers gather for a formal Cappies gala and awards ceremony.

Cappies programs run throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Ridleian Becomes National Champion in Archery

On March 5th, Reece Wilson-Poyton ’18 captured the Canadian National Indoor Archery Championships in the Cadet Recurve category, which requires archers to hit a small target from 18m away. This victory caps a remarkable run for the Ridley student, who took up competitive archery in just 2015.

His goal is to make the 2020 and 2024 Summer Olympics teams, and plans on beginning his training for shooting Olympic outdoor distances (70m) next year.

He was inspired to take up this less-common sport after attending the archery contests during the 2015 Pan-Am Games held in Toronto. “I love the sport so much because I am constantly improving, learning, and changing,” says Reece, who is now giving back to the archery community by becoming a Level 1 instructor for beginners at the Brockley Archery Club in Hamilton.

Athletics is an integral part of the Ridley College experience, all students participate in some form of physical activity every day. Ridley participates in the Sport for Life Society’s Long Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD). Which exposes students to a variety of sports as a foundation for engaging in sport for life. It provides a path to better sport, greater health, and higher achievement based on the latest sport science and best practices in coaching and training from around the world. Even when students find a passion outside of one of our over 75 co-curriculars, we do our best to accommodate.

Reece travels several times a week to Caledon, ON for training sessions, and practices on campus with Mr. Clyde Dawson. “Ridley has helped by allowing me to practice on campus under the supervision of Mr. Dawson two times a week after school as part of my sport credit,” says Reece.

Reece was recently featured in an episode of Future Legends on WIN HD Caribbean, who profiled his perseverance and determination, to overcome an eye injury to compete at the highest level. Ridley encourages students to discover and pursue their passions, persevere through challenges, risk failure, and develop grit and resilience. Accomplishment and engagement are elements of a flourishing life. Grit is a fundamental element for achievement and Reece has embodied this.

His next competition is the Multi-sites Indoor Championships of the Americas (MICA), which will involve archers from the Americas and the Caribbean. Afterwards Reece says he will be focusing on upcoming outdoor competitions in Montreal and Sault Ste. Marie, shooting at a distance of 60m, and attending a training camp in Florida.

A New Twist on The Tempest

It starts with a storm, but this wasn’t a regular tempest, as Ridley Theatre presented their own twist on Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest, with three performances held in the Mandeville Theatre.

This version of the play takes place far away from the setting of the original, an unnamed island in the Mediterranean, Ridley’s Tempest takes place in turn-of-the-century Nova Scotia. Enhancing this setting is the use of traditional maritime music and sea shanties. The play opens with a stirring rendition “Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers.

“It’s been fantastic, the kids are amazing, we’re so fortunate at Ridley to have such talent,” says Mrs. Gillian Fournier, who is volunteering her time as a director, while on maternity leave.

This Canadian connection to the show and Shakespeare, makes it more relative to our history, and the audience, according to Mr. Andrew Hitchcox, one of the shows three directors. Especially relevant are the aspects of the play tackling colonization, the arrival of the shipwrecked survivors to the island, and Prospero’s subjugation of Caliban, the island’s original inhabitant.

This production held no auditions, everyone who wanted to be involved in the play got to be a part of it. For many students it was their first experience in theatre. Only nine  of the 19 cast members speak English as their first language. Cast members come from 10 different countries.

“I would never have imagined myself learning Shakespeare let alone performing it and not being terrible. I learned that even though things are new to me, I should always be open and confident in seeing myself succeed in every new challenge I face,” says Obianuju Nwadike ‘17, who plays Prospero, the play’s main antagonist.

The students took a leadership role in the production, including music, lighting. “We give them the skills to be able to do the show,” says Mrs. Anna Blagona, director and Head of English & Drama.

All of the choices and depictions of the characters were up to the student actors. This resulted in some roles being gender-swapped, including the main character of Prospero, played by Obianuju. “I enjoy my character a lot. She switches moods/feelings when conversing with other characters and It’s really exciting to explore multiple dimensions of my character,” says Obianuju.

Ridley’s Troupe 7774 is part of the International Thespian Society (ITS), which was founded in 1929. It is an honorary organization for high school and middle school theatre students located at more than 4,200 affiliated secondary schools across Canada, the United States, and abroad. The mission of ITS is to honour student achievement in the theatre arts.

Missed the performance? Login to TigerNet Live to watch it on demand.

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Ottawa Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk Launches The Organ Project

7-Time Grammy Award Sensation Carrie Underwood to Headline The Organ Project’s Gala in Toronto

Eugene Melnyk, Ridley parent, Owner of the Ottawa Senators, and himself an organ transplant recipient, launched a major philanthropic initiative called The Organ Project, whose mission is to end the waitlist for all transplant patients.

In May 2015, Mr. Melnyk received an anonymous liver donation that saved his life. From that moment on, he made it his mission to help all patients who are in desperate need of an organ transplant.

The Organ Project is focused on building greater awareness to organ donation, reducing organ transplant wait times and to increasing the number of people registered as organ donors.

“Every three days in Ontario, someone dies waiting. … The good news is this is truly a solvable problem because we don’t need to find a cure for waiting,” says Melnyk. “Our goal is to make organ donation as normal and expected as wearing your seatbelt. Both save lives and both are a choice you can make and embrace.”

The Organ Project is holding an inaugural gala on March 31, to help kick off April as Organ Donation Awareness Month. The Organ Project Gala will be an exclusive event held at the historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto and will feature a performance by seven-time Grammy winner, Carrie Underwood.  

The Organ Project is another opportunity for our school community to show its commitment to service and we hope our extended Ridley family will consider supporting this meaningful cause. 

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Ridley: A Cradle of Creativity

By Michele Bett, Head of Upper School

Sir Ken Robinson, a British author and international advisor on education, tells the story of a test on divergent thinking (i.e., creativity) in which young children scored 98%, early teenagers scored 10%, and adults scored 2%. His point is that schools tend to educate students out of creativity when they should be doing just the opposite, in his view, creativity is as important as literacy.

Sir Ken is not alone. A few years ago, IBM conducted a survey of CEOs all over the world about the most important leadership qualities needed in our new economic environment, and creativity came out on top. At Ridley College, we couldn’t agree more.

The exciting Arts morning held on Saturday, February 25th is just the latest example of how the Ridley College Upper School is bucking the educational trend and affirming the importance of creativity and arts in young people’s development.

Arts express our common humanity; arts communicate not just information but meaning, value, and life itself. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Art is the signature of man.” In a recent review of a book about Chesterton, a writer is quoted who says that the purpose of the arts is “to remove the automatism of perception.” In other words, the arts shake up our routine ways of knowing and give us the power to see with new eyes, to hear with new ears, to think with new minds, and to feel with new hearts. The arts give us an opportunity to become a beginner again, like a young child.

Our continued commitment to positive psychology informs us that it is important in our lives to be able to find activities that require our full engagement. This sort of engagement helps us to learn, develop and cultivate our personal happiness. When we concentrate on something that entirely absorbs us we are creating a ‘flow’ of rich and deep immersion into an activity, and it’s this very type of ‘flow’ of engagement that is so important in stretching our intelligence, skills, and emotional competencies.

So to celebrate this shake-up and to find ways to help our students find their “flow”, we have captured for you images of our creativity here on campus. From tap dancing to cap making, at Ridley College, our teachers and students are embracing the power and importance of artistic understanding so essential in a world beyond our school gates.

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View the Saturday schedule for the remainder of the school year.

TransfORming Our Globe – Margaret Coons ‘08

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Margaret Coons ‘08, who has developed a unique alternative to dairy cheese using cashew milk and is now selling her products throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Margaret began her Ridley career in 2006, as a Grade 11 student. Passionate about sports, she joined the harriers, rugby and swim team; enjoying the physical activity that was and is such a crucial part of a Ridley education. After graduating from Ridley in 2008, Margaret attended the University of Western Ontario and pursued a degree in English Language and Literature.

It was while she attended university that Margaret found a job that combined her love of cooking, vegetarianism, and acute business sense. She began work at a vegetarian restaurant in London, Ontario and quickly assumed the role of chef and restaurant manager.

“I had the opportunity to perform cooking demonstrations on the local television stations and at the annual ‘Veg Fest’… in London and over the years of working as a chef greatly enjoyed creating recipes and alternative versions of more conventionally available foods” – Margaret Coons ’08

The retirement of the restaurant owner and the imminent closing of the restaurant granted Margaret the opportunity to begin designs on owning and operating her own business. The result was Nuts For Cheese, a product-based food manufacturing company that makes artisan dairy free cheeses from cultured organic cashew milk. Margaret was making many of these cheeses for the restaurant and for her own enjoyment so, in May of 2015, she decided to open a farmers’ market booth in London to sell the five varieties of vegan cheese.

The demand for this cheesy alternative was high and Margaret soon found she was renting out kitchen space late at night to make cheese for the farmers’ market and the retail accounts she had accrued. From there, Margaret has grown her business to include its own manufacturing plant distributing to nearly 50 retail locations across the country. Margaret hopes to continue to grow Nuts For Cheese into a product that is available in specialty food shops across the country as well as show people just how delicious vegan cheeses can be.

Margaret says her time at Ridley taught her a lot about discipline and focus.

“The skills that running my own business requires are backed up by an ability to be dedicated to my work and passionate about what I put my time into.” – Margaret Coons ’08

Working with food and creating new recipes are Margaret’s favourite aspect of her career. Having been a vegetarian since age 12 and having always possessed a love of cooking, she feels this is the ideal career for her to channel those passions. Margaret also enjoys working as a business owner with her great team and connecting with the “supportive and inspiring” small business support network. Her love of great vegan alternatives continues to motivate her personally and professionally.

“Consumers of products like ours have for a long time been faced with the decision to purchase low quality alternatives, giving vegan food products a bad name, or to forgo consuming a certain type of food for a variety of ethical or health reasons. Making cheese products available to people who can’t or don’t eat dairy for whatever reason is very exciting for us.”                        – Margaret Coons ’08

Margaret’s advice to any young Ridleans about to explore their academic and/or professional careers is to throw yourself at whatever you’re doing without overthinking it too much. While she says her unique career in vegan cheese was “almost by accident”, the success she has enjoyed thus far was a result of passion and deliberate dedication to her project.

TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to

Musicians Come Together for Annual String Fling

Melodic notes filled the halls of Ridley College last week, for the second annual Spring Fling workshop and concert. Young string musicians from Ridley and the local community joined together for workshops on both February 2nd and 3rd, and performed a spectacular performance to conclude the event.

The workshops – led by special guests, Dr. Metro Kozak and the Walker String Quartet – were an opportunity for the students to synchronize, while preparing for the Friday night concert. Each session was specialized for the group of students participating and which ensemble they were a member of: String Fling Orchestra, String Fling Quartet, Chamber Orchestra or Junior Chamber Strings.

After an enlightening two days of musical training, the students were ready to showcase their talents during a performance in the Mandeville Theatre. Over 60 students who filled the stage had the chance to play alongside professional string musicians and workshop mentors, The Walker String Quartet. Ten songs were performed; ranging from historic pieces by Mozart, to cinematic songs from major motion pictures. Our special guest, Dr. Metro Kozak led the students gracefully through each piece as their conductor, while the audience remained captivated in their seats.

“The students at Ridley were very open to new concepts and were cooperative. Many of them were relatively new to their instruments and made terrific strides in their abilities. All in all, an exciting event.” – Dr. Metro Kozak

This musical experience gave our students a chance to bond with individuals from our local community, while learning from professionals. It was also a wonderful opportunity for our Lower School students to collaborate with students from the Upper School.

Ridley’s dedication to the arts is ever growing. There are endless opportunities for students to expand their artistic education. These opportunities don’t end when school is out, nor are they limited to Ridley students. Our Summer Programmes offer a wonderful opportunity for art exploration of all kinds.

This summer, students who are interested in learning more about music can register for the Summer Symphony Boarding Experience at Ridley. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance your musical skills, make friends and explore the Niagara region! For more information, visit our website.

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