A busy theatre weekend at the end of May.

It’s a week of wrapping up seasons, celebrating, and honouring excellence.  It’s also rehearsals or tech week for everyone who’s in Nextfest, and rehearsal for the Fringe.

And in the middle of all that, Fringe Theatre Adventures hosted another excellent workshop in their Professional Development Series yesterday.  Charles Netto and Mark Hopkins of Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre in Calgary conducted an all-day series of experiences and conversations about found space and site-sympathetic theatre.  This is the second of the Professional Development series I’d participated in.  If the series continues next year, I recommend them strongly.

The nominees for the 2014-2015 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes awards for professional theatre in Edmonton were announced this afternoon in a smooth and speedy ceremony at the Next Act.  Mat Hulshof introduced the special award winners and Louise Lambert and Ben Stevens read the nominees.  I was able to reminisce about many wonderful shows I’d seen, and marvel about how many more good performances I must have missed, especially at the Fringe.

The Foote Theatre School’s Young Companies closed their instructional year with performances this weekend too.  I missed seeing the Young Musical Company in Chris Wynters and Jocelyn Ahlf’s new musical Measures, but I enjoyed the Young Acting Company’s performance of Robert Chafe’s Afterimage, an ensemble piece that starts out as narrative spoken to the audience by various company members, who seem to be inhabitants of a small east coast community.  This impression of a narrative chorus is continued by having all members of the company sit on chairs at the sides of the stage when not engaged in scenes.  Gradually, I discovered who was who in the story they were telling.  Kieran Dunch was Winston, a man badly burned while trying to repair a downed electrical line, Monica Lillo was the nurse Maggie, and Jasmine Zyp was Lise, who worked in the hospital laundry but seemed to be drawn to the injured man by foresight or some other unusual power.  I appreciated the way the story gradually fitted together, with Leonard (Daniel Greenways) and Connie (Kathryn Robinson) crossing paths with Lise at important points in their lives.  Aidan Burke, Clayton Plamondon, and Jade Robinson played child characters credibly without parody.  Katelyn Trieu was credited as The Storyteller, continuing the role of chorus throughout the play.  I was particularly struck by the plight of Clayton Plamondon’s character, the misfit among misfits, (like Wednesday Addams, but serious).  Brian Dooley directed.

Tonight was the first of three nights of staged readings for the Young Playwrights’ Company.  I watched Winky & Rex by Joshua Wiśniewski and Prodigy by Hayley Moorhouse.  Reading was done by local performers, Candace Berlinguette, Jason Chinn, Joel Crichton, Eva Foote, Merran Carr-Wiggin, Bobbi Goddard, and Lee Boyes.  In both scripts the dialogue flowed smoothly and provided enough scope for the readers to develop memorable characters.   I particularly appreciated the way the writing made each character sound different.  There were also some repeated catchphrases which amused the audience, “as previously stated” in Winky & Rex, and “Obviously!” in Prodigy.

Winky & Rex was a snapshot of life for three uniquely awkward young adults, two roommates and their longtime friend.  It was set shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  That mattered because one character had grown up in East Germany and his father could finally travel to visit him.  I had some confusion early on about the relationship between the roommates and about what country they were living in (I thought they were in the former West Germany but later it seemed to be the USA).

The main characters in Prodigy were three Grade Eight students, angry and disappointed about the cancellation of their band program, and taking out their frustrations on their teacher (Lee Boyes).   The young people had age-appropriate lapses in judgement on big issues (the likely consequences of assassinating school officials for example) but were careful to correct each other on word usage that might hurt people’s feelings, which was charming and credible.

There are more staged readings of new work Tuesday and Wednesday of this week at 7:30 in the Club at the Citadel, pay-what-you-can admission.

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