St. John’s Short Play Festival

St. John’s Short Play Festival

By: Nick Travis

The 4th annual St. John’s Short Play Festival aims to dispel dated images of the theatre while providing quality entertainment for arts lovers across the province

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Some people may find attending a theatrical production to be an exclusive atmosphere, full of artistic and high society types – a world inaccessible to people who are more casual about theatre than the true fanatics. This is an image that the St. John’s Shorts is attempting to dispel.

“Stuffy is not what we do,” said Sharon King-Campbell, Festival Coordinator for the annual Short Play Festival.

Equal opportunity

The 4th Annual St. John’s Short Play Festival runs from September 5- 2 at the LSPU Hall and showcases 26 independent plays by locals, professionals and amateurs alike. 

To ensure all applicants are on a level playing field, the people who were chosen to showcase their performances were picked by a lottery.

“Up until this year, we’ve been able to accept everybody who submitted,” said King-Campbell. “We’ve just been able to grow the festival big enough that this year we got twice as many submissions – we had 40 something. It’s not a curated festival. That’s always been part of the mission is that you can make whatever you want. So it’s a lottery system to figure out who would get a spot.

The Short Play Festival allows for productions of all types. Whether you like comedy, drama, horror, historical pieces or anything in between, the festival will probably have something for you! 

Among the featured productions, acclaimed local actor Charlie Tomlinson will perform a solo piece in which he acts out a letter penned by Thomas Jefferson. “It’s sort of like an archive acting experiment, which is very cool,” said Stacy Gardner, Media and Marketing team member. 

A radio drama will be brought to the stage by Ladies who Lunch Productions, written by playwright Philip Goodridge. 

“He writes short radio thrillers and then they perform them as voice actors, but it’s usually like timey ’40s era voice actors,” said Campbell-King. 

“And then you have a foley artist who makes the sounds live on stage. It’s very impressive what you can do in a very short time.”

There will also be a play created and performed by young people. “This particular festival is going to have a weekend that’s completely dedicated to children’s theatre,” said Gardner. 

“Jamie Skidmore with Under the Bridge, he’s doing YPT, or young people’s theatre. And myself with Quills on the Edge, we’re doing a piece called Tell. It’s going to be sort of an eclectic group of young people that aren’t necessarily involved with theatre naturally. So they would be involved in two workshops, and then we would go in and direct it a little bit, shape it and stage it for that weekend.”

Empowering performers

According to Gardner and King-Campbell, the St. John’s Short Play Festival is a great opportunity for fledgling performers to get used to being on stage, trying new ideas, and building ones confidence.  

“It’s an empowering festival, I think,” said Gardner. “To be part of a festival with people who have this amazing background in theatre, you feel a sense of validation and camaraderie. You’re like, ‘Oh this is not  just exclusive.’ It just feels really inclusive.

“I feel like that’s what all the playwrights get out of this experience,” Gardner adds. “They get their own little community in their own worlds, and that just totally emboldens their experience.”

The Short Play Festival strives to be as inclusive as possible, and bring in those that may not consider themselves avid theatre-goers. 

“There’s so much, that whether you consider yourself a theatre kind of sorts or someone who’s just curious – it’s getting all the curious people and then them feeling, ‘Oh, I can be part of this.’ This is an easy place to sit and enjoy,” said Gardner.

“Personally, I want audiences to go away with a sense that theatre isn’t stodgy, that it’s totally accessible,” said King-Campbell. “And that we are actively working as a community to make it more accessible.”

Each day of the festival will showcase three shows, at a max of about 90 minutes for all three. Tickets are $15 per showcase. Early bird tickets to see all the productions throughout September is only $60. Shows take place at the LSPU Hall, which is handicap accessible. An open bar is also available.

Anyone interested in learning more about the plays or ordering tickets can go to www.rca.nf.ca, www.lspuhall.ca, or call the box office at 709-753-4531 at extension 200.

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