SMK St Michael Institution’s (SMI), annual drama for their centennial year entitled Jean-Baptiste; The Lost Chronicles about the founder of the La Salle Brotherhood was billed as the ‘Drama of The Century’ and it certainly lived up to its name.
The play was directed by Timothy Chee while his son Ian wrote the script which depicted the life and time of Jean-Baptiste and how the La Salle brotherhood was founded.
Jean-Baptiste de LaSalle, born into nobility in the 18th century during the time of the Sun King, Louis the 14th of France, was the founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools commonly referred to as the de La Salle Brothers, the first Roman Catholic congregation of male non-clerics devoted solely to schools, learning and teaching.
This was a time of decadence and opulent grandeur intertwined with corruption, vices and political machinations. During this time the common man born outside nobility was neglected and his children deprived of education which then was reserved for the rich and powerful.
Into the realm comes nobleman Jean-Baptiste de La Salle who became a priest at a young age. Aware of the deplorable plight surrounding him, he starts a school for underprivileged children which earns him the scorn of the powerful nobles who plot to destroy him and his school.
The play, although based on fact, was intertwined with fictional characters such as Franz who plays the part of the underprivileged young boy whom Jean-Baptiste nurtures and becomes a Brother. Franz also plays the part of the narrator who leads the audience through the storyline before and after the play.
The play was a most entertaining effort. The players’ costumes were colourful and relevant to that period, had interesting props and combined with the popular choice of music such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Bruno Marz’s “I Wanna Be a Millionaire’, kept the audience captivated throughout.
According to Timothy, the script was sent to Dato’ Brother Vincent Corkery for vetting but he did not change a single word. Brother Vincent in his address after the first night’s performance, praised everyone for putting together this “wonderful extravaganza” and contributing towards the overall centennial year celebrations.
Besides being entertaining, this ‘humble school play’ has delved into the historical background of the life of Jean-Baptiste and provides a quick insight of his legacy of education. SMI is one of many La Salle Schools in Malaysia, the others being St John’s, KL; St George’s, Taiping; and St Xavier’s, Penang, to name a few.