The Cape Breton University Boardmore Theatre’s Elizabeth Boardmore One-Act Play Festival wrapped up March 24, with a reception and presentation of Achievement Awards by adjudicator, Ron Jenkins.
The event was held in the Pit Lounge, lending it an informal air, with an open bar and a bountiful buffet, closer to the Golden Globes than the Oscars.
Anna Spencer won the Emerging Director award for Daniel On A Thursday and comments that, “winning this award showed me two things: that I am ready to go off and learn. I have the general knowledge, now it’s time to expand and grow as a director; I know that my community supports me fully and I have a lot of people rooting for me to succeed.”
Manager of the Boardmore Playhouse and Festival organizer, Todd Hiscock, believes the Achievement Awards contribute to the One Act Festival in a number of ways.
“By giving confidence to the winners – knowing that their work is valued,” Hiscock says. “There is also the recognition from the peer group – one feels supported to take on future projects. The awards are usually given out with an expectation that the winner will continue to explore new ways of producing plays – taking on more challenging work and believing that they can get better. And, winning an award helps build the resume.”
Victoria Station, a production of Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Harold Pinter, captured three awards.
It won Achievement Awards for Overall Production, Direction (John Lingard), and Special Achievement In Acting (for cast members, Mark Delaney and Ron Newcombe).
David Hutchinson and Matt Earhart also won a Special Achievement In Acting for Daniel On A Thursday, directed by Anna Spencer.
Also winning multiple Achievement Awards was Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You, a take-no-prisoners assault on Catholicism by playwright Christopher Durang.
Todd Pettigrew, the play’s director, also won an Achievement Award for his work, while George MacKenzie as the cheerily loopy title character won for his lead performance, and the cast won an award for its ensemble work.
Paul MacDougall’s new play, The Venetian Gardens, also won several Achievement Awards. Stephen Peters won for Supporting Male Actor and Breagh MacNeil won for Emerging Actress.
They shared an Ensemble Acting award with their castmates, Daniel Dobson, Ron Williams and Bob Lewandowski. Williams and Lewandowski also won The Sunshine Boys Award, an award created especially for them by adjudicator Jenkins.
Williams says being presented with the Sunshine Award is certainly a highlight of his short involvement with the theatre.
“Although I’m still not entirely sure what the award is all about,” he says with a chuckle, “to be recognized by one’s peers has to be the greatest award an actor can receive. To be chosen as one of the nominees for the The Best Actor Award was a great honour for me, one that I will never forget. If to date I have accomplished anything in theatre thus far it is mainly due to hard work as well as the encouragement and guidance given to me by my fellow cast members and of course my Director(s).”
MacDougall won the Boardmore Trophy for Best New Play.
“As a playwright I consider The Boardmore prize an invaluable aspect of the One Act Play Festival because it recognizes the time, effort and dedication local area playwrights put in to delivering a quality piece of work,” says MacDougall, who also won the Boardmore Trophy for his previous play, Rock-A-Bye Baby. “The fact the Boardmore Prize has been given for over forty years also shows the long standing tradition of producing good drama at CBU and recognizes through its name the Boardmores who were instrumental in moving theatre forward in Cape Breton and giving many writers, actors and directors their start.”
Tear Drops and Ashes, a gritty, darkly funny drama about young people leading short sad lives on society’s fringe won Achievement Awards for Best Female Actor (Jenna Lahey), Emerging Actor (Paul Bishop), and Emerging Playwright for its author Amy Grant. The production featured a live scorpion onstage who received honourable mention.
Veteran Boardmore Theatre actor, Josie Sobol, won an Achievement Award for Supporting Female Actor for her work in Kristen Woodford’s charming and funny, Hippies Trees and Curses.
Adjudicator Jenkins made a special point of awarding four awards in Stage Management to Mary Jean Doyle (Victoria Station), Michael Gale (Venetian Gardens), Darren MacQueen, and Lauren MacLeod.
Sheila Christie teaches stage management at CBU and some of her students were among the award winners.
“The Stage Management awards were a wonderful way to bring the important behind-the-scenes work into focus for the festival participants and attendees,” Christie says. “As Ron (Jenkins) suggested, great stage managers give directors, designers, and performers the freedom to focus on their creative work. Stage managers keep track of the practical details, making sure that the creative’s have what they need, both in rehearsal and during performance. By celebrating the Stage Manager’s contributions to the process, the awards acknowledged the many hours these stage managers contributed to their successful shows and reminded everyone that good theatre takes a community to create.”
Christie also adds, “Stage management is very difficult to learn in the classroom. We can talk about general practices and consider case studies, but nothing rivals the chance to get into the theatre and work with a show as a stage manager.”
The event also brought back Achievement Awards for the full-length plays staged during the Boardmore’s fall and winter season. These awards were decided by a select group of season pass holders who had attended all of the productions.
Those awards went to The Company Store for Best Production, Gary Walsh for Best Director for Exit the King, Bonnie MacLeod for Best Female Actor in The Company Store, and Mike McPhee for Best Male Actor in Exit The King.
Adjudicator Jenkins, whose own mother, Peggy, was in the audience, joked with winners who failed to thank their parents during their acceptance speeches.
As Anna Spencer, one of those cajoled into thanking her parents, says, “It’s always important to thank your parents because no matter how many people influence your life or your career, your parents have always done the most. They have been with you every step of the way and in my case they go above and beyond to show their support. They’ve been with you since the dog days and it’s important that you show them how much you appreciate them.”