COMMENTS

Closing remarks from Carey Nicholson on the 2015 One-Act Play Festival

Thank you all for a wonderful weekend - EODL, all involved in bringing the festival together, our hosts - Highlands Little Theatre and all the participants of each production.

For me this has  been a weekend of new faces, new plays, new artists and I hope, new friends  For you, I hope it has been a weekend of affirmation, discoveries, possibilities and new avenues of creativity.

I believe my primary function as an adjudicator exists to stimulate process, nudge creative curiosity, encourage risk taking and foster artistic growth.  I am so heartened by your openness to learn, to engage in discussion, and to share your process and experiences with me.

The plays in this festival have taken us on big journeys with big ideas and big challenges for everyone - playwrights, directors, designers, technical crew, actors and audiences.  The action we create in taking on these challenges fuels the motor that keeps theater moving forward.  My admiration and thanks to EODL and their member groups for their value of, and commitment to, one act play festivals for the past 40, 50 and 74 years.  I looe forward to where the festival will take its participants in the future!

Thank you,

Carey Nicholson

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Comments from Bea Quarrie on the 2015 Spring Play Festival

Remarks from Bea before handing out the awards

Since November, I have been riding around the province looking at productions from Brockville, Cobourg, Prince Edward County, Belleville, Kingston, Peterborough and Ottawa. These have been very diverse plays, from Christmas regulars to Canadian classics.

And now we are here, in Cobourg, our work done and time to kick up our heels. And we should celebrate with this slow coming Spring, because it is finally time. Time to ask ourselves why do we do Community Theatre? Lots of hard work, people bicker, actors get sick, sets are not ready, tickets are not selling...and we have worked soooooooo hard, we made difficult choices, sacrified family time and money, bribed others to come on board, rejoiced in our successes and reflected on missed opportunities. We have communed together in the secular churches of our theatre space because we love this ephemeral art called live theatre. We have aspired to create meaningful experiences for participants on both sides of the stage.

Theatre, professional or amateur, is really about aspirations, about longing and the desire to find answers. Small theatre concerns itself with small questions while great theatre with the big Universals.

Small theatre is not the size of the company but the size of its aspirations. Small theatre asks so little of actors and directors, perhaps because we have little expectation of ourselves in this age of anxiety and multiple distractions. We are obsessed with our iphones, our selfies, our tweets...and have created whole industries devoted to our "happiness, our well being, our need to fill the VOID with instant gratification." And all that makes for weak acting and weak theatre. The more we are self involved and focused on ourselves, the less interesting we become. Actors, directors, designers and yes, producing companies need to be generous and courageous not just with funding but in spirit. Attention must be focused outwardly not so much on what one is feeling but on what one is trying to accomplish.

Effective, organic actors upon whom the burden falls of making plays come to life, these actors must have abundant generosity and courage - two rare attributes which our current national hypochondria render in miniscule supply and rate in even lower esteem. WE should not be concerned with niceties, we need not be concerned with giving offence. We are on a mission and we demand that audiences pay attention. If we can connect with them through our courage and gusto, then they will not stay home and watch Netflix but will choose to have an exciting experience with us, maybe even participate on or backstage!

For all that to work, YOU, the participating actors/directors sitting here today, are charged with bringing desire rather than completion, will rather than emotion to the stage In the end, your productions will be compared not to ART but to LIFE; and when the audiences leave after the show, they will speak of their lives, hopefully, rather than your technique or your staging. They will not go home humming the set! The difference then between what you bring to the passionate delivery of each play and what some others might bring to less meaningful fluff is the difference between a rousing fire and one LED bulb. Let us not sink to low level entertainment with no T for theatre!!

And really folks, lets face it. Current audiences sometimes demand very little of their actors, directors, playwrights: a continued portrayal and repetition of the idea that nothing very much is happening around us, that we need not worry even in the current climate of fear and suspicion.

Audiences have asked of the actors that they repeat to us constantly that it is OK to laugh when not amused, to cry when not moved, to beam gratitude upon the unacceptably dumb and vapid-sometimes salacious TV shows, to condone the unforgivable, to express delight in the banal. Most performances then are false and mechanical, but this is by no means a coincidence, it is a sign that our society is demanding that its creative people repeat the catechism essential to our tenuous mental health - that nothing is happening, that nothing very bad will befall us and that we are SAFE.

Look at all the disclaimers we now have to post!!

Perhaps once actors, directors, designers are not feeling the great fear of censure or misunderstanding that the bums in seats' mentality dictates, and they feel supported by their group 100%, then there is some hope that the tide of our unhappy inward turning time has turned and we are once again prepared to take a good hard look at ourselves.

For me, these last few months have been filled with discoveries about the groups working away in pockets all over Eastern Ontario. I rejoice in the courage that have shown when they cast aside concerns for comfort on stage and try new and challenging things. I am encouraged when I see the joy that comes from their finding the power rather than the fear when faced with the necessity of artistic choice. I am heartened when they find the life-giving pleasure this involvement means to them, no matter what on stage or backstage role they take on whether it is a splendidly silly farce or a deeply moving tragedy.

For all this we need courage in abundance, both personal and collective. I know it exists in EODL because I have seen it in each company.

I want to thank each group for your hospitality, for returning Community to Community Theatre, for trusting that the gift of your performances will be gratefully received no matter how complex the material.

If theatre is the coming together of all the arts, then I thank each and every company for returning all those arts to life!!

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Comments from Chris Worsnop on the 2014 Spring Play Festival

Adjudication Opening Remarks

Thank you all for letting me be your adjudicator for this festival - for welcoming me to your productions - for joining in the conversations - for believing in the value of improving our art through learning in festival - and for not running me out of town. You'll have one more chance after I'm through today.

Thank you for your passion and devotion to our joint obsession - COMMUNITY THEATRE. You have all shown me again the truth of the statement: Good community theatre can be as good as and better than some professional theatre. I thank you for that as well, even though it has made my task today even harder.

I am particularly happy that this year's festival was what EODL calls a traveling festival, where the plays are adjudicated during their regular run in their local setting. I see many advantages in this model, as compared to the central festival where sometimes only four plays are presented. This may be because it is the model I am used to from adjudicating for ACT-CO, where I have visited as many as 26 plays in a single season. The biggest advantage of course is that there is no limit to the number of companies that get to be part of the festival - get to take part in the learning exchange that comes from a dialogue among colleagues.

I only wish that more of you could come with me to see all of these colleagues on stage, so that I am not the only one to learn more about community theatre by seeing so much of it. If there is one important recommendation I would make to all community theatre groups to help them polish their craft, whether they are in festival or not, it is that they should make a point of seeing as mush as possible of each others work. And then talk about it.

Bless you all for all your work in your own communities. Here's something you should do: Take a count of all the hours each individual invests in each production in your season; multiply the total hours by the minimum wage; write a report, with pictures of course, and submit it to your local newspaper, with a copy to your local municipal council; add a request to the council submission to appear before the council members to present the report and point out the significance of the dollar equivalents your VOLUNTEER members inject into the social fabric and culture of your local community. DO IT.

I wish I could give an award to every one of you, but there aren't enough. So let's start with this: to each of you and all your colleagues at home, I give my thanks, my respect and my congratulations. You are all troupers.

In a few minutes, we'll all know which ones of our colleagues will be the ones to go to Sarnia next month to represent not only their own community theatre, but to represent us all - all the community theatre people of the Eastern Ontario Drama League.

So, let's get on with it.

Chris M. Worsnop

tAjudicator

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Comments from Carolee Mason on the 2013 One-Act Play Festival

One-Act Play Festival Hosted by Theatre Night in Merrickville November 8th - 10th, 2013

Carolee's comments are only represented here on the context of suggestions and adjudications.

Theatre Night in Merrickville hosted the plays in the Community Centre, which had been specially set up for the Festival. The house was full to capacity for most events.

Seven different community theatre groups brought plays to the Festival, and their productions were carried out successfully. My public comments were well received. Several people approached me following each public commentary to ask additional questions, to make comments, or to express appreciation. Some audience members engaged in thoughtful discussion, as time permitted. One of the playwrights was present on the first evening, and she expressed her approval of the public comments made about the work on her script, and how it was contextualized within the evening's three plays. Overall, there was a positive mood, and a sense that the audience felt they had learned from the experience.

All of the companies participated in private adjudications, following my public comments of about 15-20 minutes for each group of plays. Unfortunately, there were one or two companies whose performers and production staff were unable to attend the private adjudications. While this part of the Festival experience cannot be strictly enforced, the private adjudication comprises the learning experience for the participants. If adjudications are not attended, the focus of the Festival is shifted to the awards, and away from learning and improvement. I am not sure how the EODL can emphasize this point, tactfully and with encouragement. However, I think doing so is important. The private adjudications went into significantly more detail than the public adjudications, and explored the groups' aesthetic choices, and realization of the director's vision. Note that a helpful feature of private adjudications for full length plays is the presence of the set used by that production. It can be very illustrative for the company - actors and technicians - to actually revisit moments in the play, or to try out suggestions from the adjudicator around blocking, or adjudications, this kind of "on stage" work is not possible. However, in my experience as a Sears Festival performer, director and adjudicator, the final strike is timed following the private adjudication. That way, there are set pieces on stage, and it is possible for the adjudicator to make very concrete, and clear explanations as a result. Even if the set pieces do not belong to all three plays, the presence of some furnishings/chairs/tables, can allow effective examples to be made by the adjudicator, with actors up on their feet. Again, this is a suggestion that might be useful in future, should the strike routine be reconsidered.

In all of the private adjudications, there was a spirit of collegiality and a willingness to share ideas and discuss the work. Most participants were open to consideration of various ways of doing the work, and of evaluating the choices the group had made - in both performance and technical work - in terms of their effectiveness. In many cases, others chose to attend the adjudications, and there were a few festival participants who attended all of the private sessions, as observers, in order to make notes and gain new knowledge. I see this as a very positive sign of the health of the EODL, and an indication of values around sharing, improving individual skills, and deepening understanding of theatre work, both onstage and off. The tradition of participating in this way should be encouraged. I am not sure that all of the groups realized that they had this option.

I especially appreciate the EODL approach to awards, which allows the adjudicator's awards, and some flexibility in how to define "outstanding" performance. The EODL philosophy, I believe, ensures there there is an opportunity to recognize a wide range of different elements in the plays, from awarding ensemble cast groups, but also to recognizing the effective collaboration of casts AND crews, in the realization of their vision, where the production elements have been critical to the success of the work on stage.

As adjudicator, I appreciated the efforts of the host group, and the EODL organization, in facilitating this highly successful festival of One Act Plays.

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Comments from John P. Kelly on the 2013 Theatre Ontario Festival

Theatre Ontario Festival Hosted by Domino Theatre Inc., Kingston May 15th - 19th, 2013

And the winner is -

Thank you's - Kingston, Theatre Ontario - Penny, my escort - The treasurer.

Well, it seems so long ago now since Wednesday when Theatre Night in Merrickivlle gave us 'Having Home at Home' - or at least tried to give us 'Having Hope at Home'. In my 32 years adjudicating this was the first time a lighting blackout stopped a show. I, along with everyone else in the theatre felt so, so sad for the group. Imagine all the work put into the production to get to Theatre Ontario. And this group (I am told) do not get to the final that often. It just was not fair. I was so impressed with their positive attitude to it all - I would not have been so positive myself, I would have been kicking the walls of the Power Station down. And it was a good show while it lasted - I adjudicated the first act and subsequently, TNIM succeeded in finding a place to do the second act for me - yesterday morning. I was the lucky one, most of you were not! About 25 of us got to see a very moving piece of theatre in a small space.

On night two, we had the WODL representatives all the way from Windsor with the very, very challenging play "Orphans" by Dennis Kelly. (All the Kellys are good!) And this group of young players really gave it their all to give us some magical theatre. No, it did not all work. I suspect they have performed this in larger venues in the past. In the first act, they did not get the measure of the small audience space here and there seemed to be much shouting. Act Two was much better and we had some marvelously inventive pacing. We got to see three terrific actors at their best. Yes, I quibble with the interpretation of the part of Liam, robbing us of the required tension in the first half. Bur for all that, this was a show well worth seeing. I won't forget it. It was scary. It was moving.

On Friday, Kathryn DeLory and her obviously experienced team gave us the first show in our mini-Norm Foster festival - the quite challenging "Mending Fences'. Did the company rise to the challenges" - well in some areas, they more than did, thanks to some very talented actors and some tight direction.

Sadly, the physical side of the show and all the stage movement was hampered by the positioning of a big table in the strongest acting position. The part of the production needed more thought - and we cannot run away from this, it is important, But equally, I cannot forget so many good points too. It will be hard to forget the performance of Michelle Brown as Gin.

Our NF festival ended last night with a very different piece from the good man - 'Looking', brought to us all the way from Espanola. And the journey was well worth while. Walter Maskel marshalled his team of four into a true ensemble. The interplay was of a high order, but it was the man's inventive direction which glued it all together. It was a lesson in fine motor movement and the laughs flowed. It even had me laughing at times and I assure you that is no mean feat for me as an adjudicator. Did I find faults - well, yes I did. I honestly did not buy the set design. Yes, it was beautiful and it provided a wonderful backdrop for some terrific lighting...but it really did not speak to me and it did not speak for Norm Foster's play. While it was easy to pick out each of the actors for individual mention, it was their ensemble playing which will remain with me.

And the winner of the festival is...

Stand aside John.

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Comments from Beatrix Quarrie on the 2012 One-Act Festival One Act Festival

Hosted by Domino Theatre, Kingston November 9th - 11th, 2012

An invitation to the theatre is always an invitation to see life lived at a very high intensity, not frittered away but concentrated, distilled, and filled with meaning. Each kind of play presents a different attitude toward life, shaped by the author's intention and the production. Realistic plays invite a serious attitude as we watch humans with animal drives try to make something of themselves and their environment.

Musicals, opera and ballet invite us to forget our humdrum everyday lives and follow the paths of romance where sensuous beauty, delicate feelings and lofty ideals are much more important then facts.

Dramas, once called tragedies, religious or historical plays exalt our spirits with pride as humans pursue a spiritual destiny in the face of an ever challenging universe.

Some plays present miscalculations and frantic schemes in such a farcical way that we laugh heartily at what fools are to take life too seriously!

Other comedies concentrate on more thoughtful laughter as we observe sophisticated characters making a game of disappointments, trying to impose logic on the changing patterns of human behaviour.

More recent plays ask us to examine the current world, sometimes to laugh in the mirror that reflects our foibles, and sometimes to shudder at the cruelty and terror that lurks behind its meaningless chatter. Imperfect though these categories are, they give us some common vocabulary with which to look at the plays that we have seen this weekend.

As community theatre practitioners we take on the challenge of providing our audiences with entertaining AND challenging material.

The nine varied and diverse productions we saw attest to the fact that live theatre is alive and well, so let's celebrate that with acknowledgements through the following awards.

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Comments from John P. Kelly on the 2012 Spring Festival Spring Festival

Hosted by Ottawa Little Theatre April 10th - 15th, 2012

We opened on Tuesday with the home team, OLT with Norm Foster's lovely 'Self-Help'. Here we had a talented bunch of actors on a splendid set playing for the text for all it was worth. Chantale Plante and Dale MacEacharn are two fine experienced actors and they showed much of their skills on the night. They were ably supported by Cindy Beaton in the gorgeous role of Bernice. It did not all work though - some of the pacing was off, so much of the comic moments were glossed over and some climaxed not reached. They had some lighting problems in the earlier part of the show - this can happen to anyone - and colour in costuming would have helped. The memory of that body will remain with me. A solid and funny opening to our festival.

On Wednesday we sat for three hours to watch the wonderful 'Streetcar Named Desire' from Domino Theatre, Kingston. And it was worth watching. And listening to - the music was terrific. This is a play written on many levels, and unfortunately for Domino, while they succeeded well on some of them, they really did not manage to sufficiently plumb the sexuality/sensuality so necessary to make the play fully work. There was some strong playing from Annette Huton, Reece Presly, Hannah Smith and particularly Bryan MacDonald - allied to some great choreographing of the minor characters, but despite great qualities, Domino did not quite bring off the feat. It is not at all patronising to say a sincere thank you to this company for giving us the opportunity of seeing this beautiful work of Art in our festival.

And onwards ot Thursday - where Picton came to us with Willie Russel's beautiful 'Educating Rita', and again lots of good work on display. I spent quite a bit of time - probably too much - on stage talking about a director's right to his or her own interpretation of a text, but clearly it is one of my favourite hobby horses. I honestly did not like the chosen interpretation for the character of Frank, I just do not feel it is the man created by the author. Having said that, within the interpretation chosen - the characterisation of John McCarthy was very good. The star of the show though was Hilary Hunter playing gorgeous Rita and she played it gorgeously. I have to admit that in getting the difficult Liverpool accent, there were times when it was a bit difficult to understand the dialogue, but his was more about speech rhythms than accent. Hilary assuredly commanded the stage and delivered a clear interpretation of the arc of the character's journey. Another good show!

And then for the joy of any festival - two new plays. I do not apologise for going on and on about this. And I give credit to Ontario Festivals over the ones on 'the other side of the pond' in that we get to see more new plays here. So keep it up. It is the lifeblood of our Art!

On Friday, Peterborough visited us with Robert Ainsworth's very clever thriller 'The Mouse House' - also directed by the author - as happened on the last night too.

For what it is worth, personlly I would prefer if new plays were directed by someone other than the author. Direction is not the same skill as writing. And I think usually - and of course there are exceptions - a production will benefit from having a different eye examine the text.

However that is just a personal remark and nothing to do with the festival.

'The Mouse House' was a very fine piece of theatre mainly because it had some terrific acting on show - and need I mention a terrific setting? The work of Jack Roe as Carson was outstanding and, given the required luck breaks - and given that Matthew Finlan chooses to take acting as a career, I expect to someday be saying to people - I knew him before he was famous? But watch the diction at all times! And director - make sure actors do not appear to be acting facing a blank wall!

And then for the last night - we had another new play. Wow! This time it was a mix of social realism and fantasy - 'Pathways' by Carl Cashin, from The Bay of Quinte Community Players, Trenton. While again there were good things to admire, some of it did not work so well. Pacing was mixed, and more thought needs to go into the use of light and sound to help the production. We did have some good acting and one performance particularly stood out - that of Debra Tosh as Nurse Effron Tilley. I meant to give credit to the medical consultants Julie Ablarde and Cheryl Ralph onstage but I did not spot their names -sorry about that. Again thank you to Bay of Quinte for bringing a fine new play to Ottawa.

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Comments from John Lazarus at the 2009 One-Act Play Awards Luncheon

EODL ONE-ACT PLAY FESTIVAL AWARDS PRESENTATION

Ho

sted by Studio Theatre Productions, Perth November 15, 2009

Adjudicator John Lazarus

This Festival has been a treat. It has been remarkably well run, by Jeremy Dutton, Renata Seiler, Roberta Peets, my escort Rob Umpherson, and the rest of the committee. Smooth as cream cheese on Mylar. There were a couple of features that struck me that I'd like to comment on.

First, I'd like to tell you about the most motivational piece of writing I've ever read. In 1973, the Vancouver Playhouse production of George Ryga's. The Ecstasy of Rita Joe opened in Washington, D.C. Since nobody in the U.S. had ever seen a Canadian play, the New York Times sent one of their drama critics, Julius Novick. He wrote:

  • 'Canadian Playwright.' The words seem a little incongruous together, like 'Panamanian hockeyplayer,' almost, or 'Lebanese fur-trapper'.

I cut that out and taped that to my typewriter. It kept me angry for a good long time, and helped motivate me to become a Canadian playwright. Well, those days are gone. I said this last night, but it's worth repeating: Out of nine plays in this festival, six are Canadian: three by two established playwrights, and the other three original pieces by members of the companies, all of whom then also participated in the plays, two by acting and one by directing. This represents, almost literally, a dream come true.

The second thing I noticed, perhaps connected to the first, is an evolution of sophistication. I don't want to make too much of this, but I'm heartened by the existence of Toto Too Theatre. These are exciting times in professional theatre, with all kinds of explorations of gender, ethnicity, politics and spirituality going on. I see Toto Too as a sign of enormous potential in bringing more of that kind of exploration into community theatre.

Generally speaking, I thought this was a very sophisticated festival. Don't mean to sound condescending, there's no reason why it shouldn't be sophisticated  we're all sophisticated people but community theatre sometimes has the stereotype of being rather strait-laced and out of date, and I know that you're often up against a lot of pressures from factions in your communities. However, what with productions like The Soldier Dreams, Deliver'd from NoWhere, and Ruby of Elsinore, you guys are proving the stereotype itself to be hopelessly out of date.

Now we come to the hard part. Last night it started to feel as though I was deciding who does not get awards today. If you think you should have got an award, and you didn't, you're probably right. A couple of years ago I was doing a Sears high-school festival, and I said, "If you think you should have got one and you didn't, phone me" and I gave out my phone number. Big mistake. Don't phone me.  Peterborough Examiner Award for Best Visual Production: For combined use of setting, signage, lighting and silhouette acting - Worth It, Dundas County Players and Shoestring Productions, Mountain. 

Helen R. McGregor Award (Adjudicator?s) ? I thought about dividing this award among three participants, but then decided to stop being so precious about it and to honour the spirit of competition. However, the Nominees for this award are Tim Ginley and R. Keith Smith. The winner, for representing a welcome trend in community theatre of presenting new, original work, and also for writing a hell of a good script, is Moira Law, author of Worth It, Dundas County Players and Shoestring Productions, Mountain.

Peterborough Theatre Guild Award (Adjudicator's). For a very funny performance, and for successfully fooling the Adjudicator and, I hope, other audience members, by means of a triumphant, sustained, masterful feat of what I'll politely call gender bending. Michael DeWolfe as Ruby in Ruby of Elsinore, Vagabond Theatre, Cornwall. I should add, there were no other nominees in this category! Colin Mawson Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Student. This was close. The nominee is Aaron Beaudette, for his performance as Claudius in Ruby of Elsinore. However, the winner, for his backstage work as ASM, Sound Operator, and, I hear, supportive son of the Stage Manager, is Josh Lueck in Mrs. C., You've Got a Lovely Scar,Peterborough Theatre Guild. Nancy Chajkowski Memorial Award for Costume Design. The nominee is uncredited: whoever created the costumes for Ruby of Elsinore. The winner, for two simple costumes that told us most of what we needed to know about the ladies wearing them. Monica Cleland, Barb McDerby and Cathie Raina, in Roommates, Kemptville Players Inc.

Now we come to the four awards for acting. In the area of acting, as in most areas here, there were too many good performances and not enough awards. I started a list of nominees, but it got silly. I started to worry that those who were going to feel singled out would be those who did not receive nominations. So forgive me, but I'm not going to list all the nominees in these categories. I singled out these winners as representative of a great many more.

Belleville Theatre Award for Acting. For a subtle and sensitive comic performance as an unsubtle and insensitive actor, who at least enters with conviction, Ian Stauffer in This is a Play, More Theatre, Manotick.

Mae Carmichael Award for Acting.  For another paradoxical achievement: a graceful portrayal of awkwardness, in a character who is buoyed up by her dreams, Kate McDonough in Ladies of the Mop, Valley Players of Almont.

Pauline Grant Award for Acting. For a cheerful and exuberant performance that sparkled, literally and figuratively, Joanna McAuley as Nola in Would You Like a Cup of Tea, Studio Theatre Productions, Perth. Nepean Little Theatre Award for Acting. For a nuanced, multi-leveled, perceptive portrayal of a man desperately trying to do and say the right thing in a difficult situation, Ken Godmere as Sam in The Soldier Dreams, Toto Too Theatre, Ottawa.

Penny Arril Award (Adjudicator's). I wanted to honour this production, but I couldn't find a category to honour it in, because what makes the production so special is what's unique and unclassifiable about it: no one contribution, but the whole thing adding up to more than the sum of its parts. So this is an adjudicator's award for ensemble work: to the cast and crew of This is a Play, More Theatre, Manotick.

Academy Theatre Foundation Award for Best Director: The best theatrical achievement by a director. Again, the nominees were just about everybody. However, two that stood out, as nominees, were Marianne Mullen for Ladies of the Mop, and Joan Sullivan Eady for This is a Play. For the winner, this was one of those productions in which each of the performances was so strong that you figure it can't be just a coincidence. Geoff Gruson, for Deliver'd from NoWhere, Ottawa Little Theatre, Ottawa. Ottawa Little Theatre Award for Best Production: For direction, minimal but effective design, and superb ensemble acting in an emotional and complex script, The Soldier Dreams, Toto Too Theatre, Ottawa.

[Brighton Barn Theatre People's Choice Award, (announced by Lee Jourard EODL Awards Chair: a tie between This is a Play and The Soldier Dreams.

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Comments from Brian van Norman at the 2008 Full-length Awards Luncheon

EODL 2008 REPORT

I had a wonderful time at the somewhat curtailed EODL Festival this year; the two productions I adjudicated were both of high quality and very contemporary. The problem was, only two productions. My understanding after speaking with several members of EODL's board, including Andy Trasuk, was that many of the original entries felt they were not ready to travel. Indeed, in a frank discussion the subject came to the formulation of the actual festival itself. The fact that the festival is hosted in one place and all potential productions must design and budget for travel is problematic. In actuality it costs a great deal in time and money for a company to prepare itself to perform in the EODL Festival.

Having adjudicated through most the province, I've seen two models which might allow for more entries into the Festival, and also provide a number of theatre groups with an adjudication process they might never otherwise take advantage of.

WODL uses the pre-festival and festival process. In pre-festival an adjudicator travels to each home venue, adjudicates both publicly and privately, and then selects the five plays destined to move to the festival itself. The WODL festival is much like EODL's in that it takes place over a week and all productions come to one host city.

I'd like to add here that over half of the WODL pre-festival productions were listed as 'out of festival' meaning they had no intention of travelling to the festival itself. Each 'out of festival' production is still eligible for a separate set of awards of distinction (24 in total) for acting, technical, design, etc. These awards are given at the Festival Awards Banquet by the pre-festival adjudicator just prior to the awards bestowed on the five competing shows in the Festival itself.

The 'out of festival' plays in their home venues still received the advantages of adjudication though in a slightly different manner. Rather than deconstruct the plays with an eye to re-rehearsal before moving on to the Festival, the adjudications took on a much more general tone: using the play as a starting point but moving into conversations on what actors, technicians, designers or directors might consider or choose to do in the next play, or others in future. Feedback indicated that a great number of the 'out of festival' adjudications actually helped company members improve their craft for future shows and were accepted quite positively.

ACT-CO does not even have a hosted Festival, but simply places all plays that wish to be adjudicated into their Festival and sends adjudicators out to adjudicate each of the productions in their home venues (there are three adjudicators: for comedy, drama and musicals due to the large number of productions). The entire process culminates in an Awards Gala in which awards are bestowed by the adjudicators and a single play is selected to continue to the Ontario Festival if it so chooses. If not, there are second and third alternatives who are ready to take their place. I'll mention here that at both Awards functions, people attend in considerable numbers as awards are being bestowed and award winners often bring with them family, friends and fellow company members. The evenings also give many individuals a chance to see people they wouldn't otherwise come across unless they travelled to see other shows (which many do).

I understand that EODL does somewhat the same thing each time it hosts the Ontario Festival, but I think if EODL made this an annual event, allowing the festival to occur in home venues with a travelling adjudicator, and also permitting productions to opt 'in' or 'out' of festival many more companies might be willing to participate. The cost would be relatively minimal consisting of the adjudicator?s fee along with travel costs like mileage and food while on the road. The cost of hotels could easily be averted by billeting the adjudicator with a willing company member on the night of the adjudication.

The only other cost would be in the Awards function. Currently it's a brunch, but it would easily be turned into a Gala evening of awards and celebration of EODL, with a business meeting either that day or the next morning to deal with administrative elements, including delivery of a Report to the Board by the adjudicator.

It's unfortunate that a community the size of EODL, which must have any number of community theatres within its fold, can't engender more participation. My hope, with this suggestion, is that it might make the process easier and more accessible for companies within EODL.

Respectfully Submitted,

Brian Van Norman Adjudicator, EODL 2008

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Comments from Bea Quarrie at the 2009 Full-length Awards Luncheon

EODL SPRING FESTIVAL 2009

Introductory Comments by Bea Quarrie, Adjudicator

Ladies and Gentlemen

Why are we here today? Why do we spend years planning, months organizing, weeks making calls, days rehearsing, hours finalizing for mere minutes on stage? I am certain that each person has a personal story about how they were recruited, or coerced or had a special moment when they felt The Call to work in theatre.

My experience harkens back to a very special event that happened in a refugee camp in Italy fifty years ago. On a foggy December night in 1956 my family had escaped through mine fields eluding guard dogs search lights and machine guns, walking across the border from Hungary to Austria. We were dispatched to a refugee camp first in Eisenstadt and then moved to a holding Red Cross camp in Rome Italy.

At this camp of about 400 people we were lucky enough to have a dozen musicians and singers form Hungary's National Opera House. Christmas was approaching and we had nothing- no money, no jobs and no country that would take us in. Even the Italian staff had only contempt for us Huns, calling us names, accusing us of sponging off their government. So as a hopeful gesture, the tenor's wife decided to organize a Christmas concert. I was delegated to sing Silent night, since as a curious 11 year old, I was constantly present at all the rehearsals. The conductor, Istvan Kertesz, destined to be Von Karajan's successor at the Berliner Philharmonic, rehearsed feverishly for weeks leading up to the Big Event.

The night of the concert, I stood on stage and watched the audience as they all shuffled into the big dining hall for dinner. We had decorated the space with a donated tree bedecked with hundreds of white paper doves. We had also been given candles to light during Silent Night. As soloists, singers and instrumentalists took the stage, the Italian kitchen staff were going about loudly clearing up dishes, causing quite a din with pots and pans. Someone was dispatched to the kitchen to ask them to be quiet and that poor messenger was thrust back out of the kitchen area with a taunting call-'Barbarians!' Undaunted, the concert went on as planned.

Soon the sweet aching music of a violin solo filled the room, and works by Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti soon mingled with Liszt, Brahms and Kodaly. The coloratura soprano's rendition of Gounod's Ave Maria left everyone breathless. One by one, I could see the kitchen staff silently sneaking out to line the walls behind the audience. By the time I had to perform they were all there, looking bewildered and filled with disbelief. Then I surrendered myself to the music and gave my all to the song. Soon people joined in and the hall rang with glorious sounds.

Someone sang the national Anthem, and we all had a good cry before hugs followed as people told each other about their past Christmases. Exchanges of pleasantries took place for about an hour or so.

Then, suddenly, the doors to the dining hall burst open. There stood the entire Italian kitchen staff with huge vinyl bags in hand. They mobbed the conductor, kissing him, and started giving out gifts, toys for every child in that camp. You could hear 'Puccini, Verdi !' echoing as they swarmed the performers with their exuberant, joyful thanks. 'Buon Natale!' Someone sang an Italian Christmas carol, which was followed by a Hungarian one. Everyone was overcome with a kind of euphoria that comes from sharing an unexpected event.

I still get goose bumps when I remember that night. I knew then in my bones that I wanted to be part of that kind of experience in my future. In a place where everyone was focused on survival, on bare necessities, the obvious conclusion to be drawn from that event and events like it, is that art must be essential to life. In that camp we were without prospects, and even without basic respect, but we were not without art. Art is a part of survival; art is a part of the human spirit, an expression of who we are. Art connects us as humans, it is the way we say 'I am alive and my life has meaning.'

From that early childhood experience I have come to understand that the arts- in my case the visual and theatre arts- is not 'entertainment' (as some media would like to relegate these forms to its Arts and Entertainment pages). It is not an elitist diversion, a luxury that gets funding from leftovers in municipal, provincial or federal budgets. It is not a disposable plaything, or a hobby or amusement- it is a basic need for human survival. People the world over have a fundamental need for a sense of order and purpose in their lives, and the arts and religion serve to meet that need. After all, our creative and spiritual being comes from the same source. Theatre, in our case amateur - for the love of it - is one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words of our own, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we cannot with our minds. So why are we here? Well, we are not here to sell ourselves, although we are often asked to do so by funding bodies. The truth is we really do not have products to sell, because if we become complacent and seek simply to satisfy our sense of ease and comfort, we immediately become irrelevant and useless. We are each one of us- whether backstage or on, in the lighting booth or the carpentry shop or the ticket booth- we are engaged in a process that helps us and those round us to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Because if there is a future wave of wellness on this ailing, shrinking planet, if there is to be harmony and peace, equality, mutual respect and fairness, I do not expect it to come from governments, or the military, and definitely not from large corporations. If there is a future of peace for our strange species, if there is to be understanding of how invisible internal things inside us should fit together, I expect it will come from creative people the world over, the artist that is inside each one of us here today.

Why else would Suzart exist? Why would two dedicated women do so much work to make theatre training happen for young people in Ottawa?

Why would Tara Players go to so much searching and soul searching to maintain their Irish cultural heritage, to connect to their roots and make clearer their sense of who they are?

Why would Domino Players, turfed out of their beautiful little theatre on the waterfront struggle to stay alive and relevant by producing a complex and demanding play in a space that is no more than a little black box?

And Ottawa and Peterborough Little Theatres, comfortable in their exclusive theatres, why would they feel the need to test themselves, to step out of their comfort zones and enter a festival in order to clarify what is a fresh look at themselves and their work? You know, if we were paramedics, doctors and nurses in ER, we would take our work very seriously, and so would everyone else, right? Well, at 8 pm on any given night of our performances, someone could walk into our theatre with a very heavy heart, feeling disconnected and isolated, overwhelmed by life and weary in their souls. Whether they go out feeling a little restored, feeling connected and maybe even a little less burdened depends entirely on how well we do our craft.

Today we are here to celebrate the fact that our work matters. It matters a great deal to all of us, to our families, to our communities and to our country.

Bea Quarrie Kemptville, ON,  March 29, 2009

Updated:  27 March 2015