SHAWVILLE – “It was going to be a one-time thing,” recalls Joan Conrod about her first directed performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat back in 1999. It was a large cast that included people from around the Pontiac. The Pontiac Community Players are all volunteers with funds raised from their efforts always going towards community projects.
Since then, the ‘one-time thing’ has grown to numerous drama festivals, musicals, murder mysteries, plays, summer theatre, cabarets and youth biblical-based plays. “There is so much local talent,” says Conrod. “It’s really delighted me that people will let me boss them around to bring out the actor in them.”
Conrod began working in Shawville at Pontiac High School in 1973. “When I started, English teachers were expected to teach Drama. Now, students I had in high school are still willing to act for me. I was a mean, miserable teacher,” she adds with a chuckle.
Rhonda Meisner of Stedman’s agrees. “She was the worst, but I would never have been as successful as I am today if she hadn’t been keeping me in line.”
Lynn Kearns, now a teacher at Lord Aylmer, says, “When you walked into Mrs. Conrod’s class, you knew she meant business. You were never late and always had your materials. She left a lasting impression on how I teach. She was one of my favourites.” Kearns reminisced of watching Conrod and her husband, David, dancing the jive during a 30 Hour Famine event. “She rocked it,” says Kearns. When told of the memory, Conrod laughs, “I learned that as a kid. I was very good at square dancing too. David was a good dancer.”
One of Conrod’s techniques for teaching Drama stood out for Sheena Campbell, another former student. “We had to walk the classroom with a book on our head; if you dropped it, you had to do it again.” Conrod explained, “That’s part of drama, you can’t be hunched over. To get your voice to carry, you have to stand up straight.”
Conrod wrote the September 28 Murder Mystery that will benefit the Pontiac Relay for Life. “The hardest thing about writing is getting the ideas,” says Conrod. “I try to write the parts to fit the personalities of the people who I know. For a murder mystery it’s more about putting in the interesting characters and hopefully making it funny.”
Lorraine Hodgins will be taking part in the murder mystery. “She is a great director, but there is no fooling around and you’d better not be chewing gum! She gets the best out of everybody,” she says.
Conrod has committed to one more play at Coronation Hall and a Dessert Cabaret in 2014. The Cabaret will be her final Pontiac production. Or will it?