New talent emerges at the Pumphouse

By Rhia Perkins

Three shows for 10 bucks, all in one night. Sound too good to be true? Well, you can get that and more Feb. 6-10 during the One Act Play Festival at the Pumphouse Theatre.

The festival, which features 13 groups this year, is designed to give Calgary theatre companies an inexpensive way to produce short plays in a competitive manner.

"The One Act Play Festival is an opportunity for up-and-coming theatre companies and established companies here in Calgary to present their work in public and to have it adjudicated in public and in private," says Leslie Holth of Pumphouse Theatre. "They compete for cash and prizes and the chance to go to the provincial competition."

This year’s adjudicator is Sage Theatre’s artistic director Rob Moffatt, who will comment on the staging of the plays presented each night. The adjudicator discusses each production’s strengths and weaknesses and its actors and directors publicly before meeting with each company privately to discuss the shows in greater detail.

Holth sees the public adjudication process as a unique experience for Calgary theatre-goers.

"The audience gets to be a part of that adjudication," she says. "You get to be a critic and to have your criticism criticized."

The process of adjudication is particularly helpful to the production companies, some of which are just starting to produce plays. For example, the group Posterboy was created especially to compete in the festival. Other groups are competing for their second time, and some like Workshop Theatre or the Liffey Players have had a Calgary presence for a number of years. However, Holt estimates that approximately 60 per cent of the companies are competing for the first time.

Some of the scripts are as recent as the companies producing them.

"About half of the scripts that will be shown will be original," says Holth. "There’s a [prize] category for outstanding original script, so it’s nice to have more than one. The rising interest in the festival reflects the number of creative people that are living and working in Calgary."

She also notes the shows performed at the festival are completely uncensored and the entrance fee is minimal, allowing participants to produce the plays inexpensively.

Through the participation of often younger and always non-equity actors and directors, the festival gives exposure to new and experimental companies and productions.

"You get an idea of what is up-and-coming, of what’s new on the theatre scene," says Holth. "[Also], it’s probably the most affordable night of theatre out there."

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