Theatre companies from across the mid Island are bringing their best work to Nanaimo next week.
The Nanaimo Theatre Group is hosting the Courtenay Little Theatre, Port Alberni’s Portal Players, Campbell River’s River City Players and Qualicum Beach’s Echo Players for the 2018 North Island Zone Theatre B.C. Festival at Bailey Studio from Monday, May 21 to Friday, May 25. The winning production will represent the North Island Zone at the provincial Mainstage festival in Vernon from June 29 to July 7.
“It’s exciting because it’s a competitive festival and it’s the one opportunity that all the theatre groups have to get together once a year…” said Sue Gueulette, Nanaimo Theatre Group president and festival committee chair.
“There’s a lot of good will. It’s not a competition in that everybody’s out to slit throats, if you know what I mean, and it’s an honour if you win.”
The host company is kicking off the festival on the first night with its production of Good People, which finished its run earlier this month.
“When we do our festival play we choose something that has a lot of merit to it,” director Sheila Bowman said.
“Usually it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner or it’s a play that has a more limited audience appeal but a stronger appeal to theatre goers.”
The drama follows a recently unemployed woman struggling to make ends meet in Boston’s tough south end. Bowman said she won’t be changing her directorial approach at festival, but the group may bring in a vocal coach to help the actors hone their Boston accents.
“It’s an excellent play and very well acted, very well produced,” Gueulette said.
“I think we have a pretty good chance but you don’t really know for sure until you see what the other groups bring in.”
On Day 2, the Little Theatre presents the 2001 comedy Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones, the lone British playwright featured in the festival, as the other plays were all written by Americans. Humble Boy follow a 35-year-old astrophysicist who returns home to a demanding mother after his father’s unexpected death.
On the third night, the Portal Players perform the 1987 parody The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long. In the play three actors blitz through the Bard’s canon, dipping into different genres.
The following evening, the River City Players present the 1981 stage adaptation of the novel 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. The play tells the story of a 20-year correspondence between a struggling New York writer and an antique bookstore owner in London.
Wrapping up the week are the Echo Players. They will perform Collected Stories by Donal Margulies, from 1996. The drama explore a teacher-student friendship that turns to rivalry.
Longtime Vancouver theatre director and producer Katrina Dunn will serve as adjudicator. Bowman said members of the Nanaimo Theatre Group were impressed when they saw Dunn adjudicate Mainstage last year and they “absolutely jumped” to recruit her.
“She didn’t sound ‘judgemental.’ She was helpful and she was inquiring,” Bowman said.
“She wanted to know why people made the choices they did, and then if she felt we could have done things differently she would very helpfully suggest other things that might have worked as well or better.”
Awards will be presented for best play, director and leading and supporting actors. There are also technical honours. Gueulette said the companies will also be judged on their interpretation of the scripts.
“It’s the best that a club has to offer and so if you kind of want to see a whole week of best plays this is when you come,” she said.
WHAT’S ON … The North Island Zone Theatre B.C Festival takes place at Bailey Studio nightly from May 21 to 25. Tickets are $20, $54 for a three-show package, $80. for a five-show package. Tickets and more information at www.nanaimotheatregroup.ca or by calling 250-758-7224.