Sunday, 19 May 2013

Day Three and Four at Theatre Ontario Festival 2013

By Anne Mooney, Community Theatre Coordinator

On Friday afternoon, Playwright-in-Residence and local Queens’ professor John Lazarus had a terrific reading of his most recent work.  Well, actually, a something he has been working on for on and off for about five years – Sex With Feminists.  Okay, so the title grabbed me.  I won’t explain why, but after listening to John as he read pages from the script and embellished the connecting sections, I can’t wait for the first production of this play.  It was a funny and raunchy and … well, you’ll just have to see the final product.

John also shared with the group some of the tools he uses when writing plays.  Through personal stories, he was able to explain how his writing process has evolved.  The group worked through a series of games in which we explored how plot and character were integrated within writing.  As a group we defined characters and created situations in which the characters affected each other, wrote these ideas on cards and then tried to group the cards as cause and effect to begin to create plot lines.  It was a shortened but intense workshop and the group came away excited about their next writing project.

Thank you to John Lazarus and the support of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Canada Council for a stimulating afternoon.

Friday night’s play was the first of two Norm Foster productions.  Markham Little Theatre presented Mending Fences.  Foster explores the relationship between father and son and uses flashback and comedy as his medium.  Actors played multiple roles – Terry Browne playing Harry and Harry’s father while Steve Birtles played Drew, Young Drew and Young Harry.  Admirable work by all.  I remember a rather stale joke that all great Canadian plays take place in Saskatchewan, in winter, in a snow storm – no snow storm here, but a hockey game – does that count?  While this play could have fit that old cliché, the writing, the performances, and the technical achievement all worked to make this production rise above any cliché to create an evening of thoroughly enjoyable theatre.

Saturday afternoon, Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director of Theatre Ontario and Deb Sholdice, General Manager of the Blyth Festival facilitated a Community Theatre Discussion Forum about the challenges facing community theatre groups in Ontario.  Representatives from EODL, WODL, and ACT-CO (members of QUONTA were busy putting a show on the stage) worked to define the issues and challenges.  Future workshops in the various regions will continue the work that began at this stimulating meeting.

Saturday afternoon also marked the arrival of my colleague, Brandon Moore, whose post will take us to the end of Festival.

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