Thursday, 17 April 2014

Exceptional Theatre to be Had at Festival 2014

By Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

Theatre Ontario Festival is one of the most unique theatrical experiences in which you can participate – as an actor, crew, host or audience member.  Over four nights the audience gets to see the cream of Ontario’s regional community theatre.   The participating groups travel, set up, perform and strike their sets in a single day.  The shows can run the range from full-on comedy to serious drama.  The groups can be completely new to theatre or experienced veterans, but all come together to share the best of their performance work.

Doubt, A Parable
Presented by Theatre Kent
Tracy Schillemore-Morton and Audrey Hummelen
Photo by Cheshire Media
This year’s Festival opens with the Western Ontario Drama League’s presentation of Doubt, A Parable by John Patrick Shanley, performed by Theatre Kent of Chatham.  This is the first time that Theatre Kent has represented the region at the provincial level.  The group started in 1978 and performs out of the beautiful Kiwanis Theatre in the Chatham Cultural Centre.

Cast member Audrey Hummelen (Sister Aloysius) and Set Designer Tom Coatsworth have been with the group since its inception.  Two members of the cast are new to Theatre Kent.  Neil Wood (Father Flynn) is new to community theatre.  He received the WODL Newcomer award presented by Festival preliminary adjudicators Dennis Johnson and Sandy MacDonald.  At the regional Festival in Windsor, Neil won the Best Actor award.  Zoe Burbank (Mrs. Muller) is a very busy girl—not only is she working with Theatre Kent, she is a performer in her high school’s Sears Ontario Drama Festival show and participated at the Regional Festival in Hamilton in early April.  This student-written show is called Phoenix.   In a final community theatre twist, Stage Manager Gina Paradis accepted the Best Production Award at the WODL Festival from WODL President Gina Paradis.

Lenin's Embalmers
Presented by The Curtain Club
Mark Hayward and Phil Dionne
Photo by Davis Strong
The Curtain Club in Richmond Hill is a veteran of the Festival circuit.  They were in Sarnia on the Imperial Theatre stage with Proof in the 2006 Festival.  This year, the group presents our only Canadian play, Lenin’s Embalmers by Vern Thiessen.  Director Joan Burrows is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and her play, Staff Room, won the 2004 Theatre Ontario Festival.

Joan describes Lenin’s Embalmers as a black comedy.  The play is based on actual events that occurred in the mid-1920’s when Stalin ordered two scientists to find a way to preserve Lenin’s body for all eternity or be sent to Siberia.  While doing research for the production, Joan realized that the 1920’s was the end of the vaudeville era and she uses the death of vaudeville as a metaphor for the play.  (I don’t want to give anymore away—you’ll just have to come see it.)  Joan feels the play is extremely timely and found many parallels between Putin’s (modern) Russia and Stalin’s Russia.  Putin spared no expense to put on the Sochi Olympics for the glory of his Russia, and Stalin spared no expense on Lenin’s embalming as a symbol of the glorious Russia of his day.  The Curtain Club even began rehearsals on the opening weekend of the Sochi Olympics.

Glengarry Glen Ross
Presented by Gateway Theatre Guild
Verlyn Plowman and Rod Carley
Photo by Ed Regan Photography
Gateway Theatre Guild from North Bay is representing the QUONTA region with their production of Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet.  Gateway Theatre Guild has a long tradition at Theatre Ontario Festival.  The group hosted the 2008 Festival in North Bay and their 2010 production of Waiting for Godot was the Best Production winner at that Festival in London.   They even have experience on the Imperial Theatre stage—the group traveled to Sarnia in 2002 with the play High Life.

According to first-time Producer Anna Iati, this is the play “men die to do.”  Not only is this Anna’s first time producing, this is her first theatrical experience – a true newcomer.   She has volunteered on various Boards in North Bay and it was during a conversation after one of these meetings that the idea was broached to do Glengarry Glen Ross and she was asked to produce the show.   Anna has been nicknamed “Mrs. Glengarry” by the all-male cast and the almost-all-male crew.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Presented by Peterborough Theatre Guild
Patricia Young and Alex Saul
Photo by Theresa James
Peterborough Theatre Guild is also very experienced bringing shows to Theatre Ontario Festival.   The Guild won the Festival in 2008 hosted by Gateway Theatre Guild.  They have also travelled to Sarnia, winning the 2006 Festival with Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.  This year, they’re bringing The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh.  Peterborough has also hosted the Festival, most recently in 1993 and 2001.  At the 2001 Festival, the QUONTA entry was Family Life Theatre’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane.  The circle just keeps growing.

Jerry Allen, director, describes Beauty Queen of Lennane as a dark comedy.  It has lots of laughs and many people have told him that they are still talking about the play the next day.  He said the play “emotionally whiplashes the audience around.”   Jerry is a retired drama teacher and has spent most of his career working in theatre in the schools, and now is using his talents with the community theatre.  He has experience at the Theatre Ontario level having been an actor Peterborough’s production of The Donnellys written by Peter Colley and presented at the Festival in 1982!  Also in that cast was Patricia Young who will be on stage in this year’s  Peterborough Theatre Guild production.

This year’s Festival will have casts, crews and theatre companies run the gamut from complete newcomers to hearty veterans.  This will be a true community theatre experience and I hope to see you there!

Join us at Theatre Ontario Festival 2014

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