Once Upon An Evening of Short Plays

gina thornhill, ailsa galbreath & jessica barry (from waltz of the fae)

On Monday evening I attended Once Upon A Theatre Collective’s Once Upon an Evening of Short Plays at the Bus Stop Theatre. The evening featured eight brand new plays each written by a different Nova Scotia-based playwright. This is a really exciting venture that allows an array of emerging playwrights to test their writing out in front of an audience in a supportive environment, directed and performed by professional artists from the community.

What I enjoyed the most about the evening was that five of the eight playwrights of the evening were people whose work I had not encountered before, which means that Once Upon A Theatre Collective is working to foster an environment where those interested in the theatre can hone their skills, can begin to write for the first time, or to learn about writing for theatre, practically, up on their feet, in front of an audience and through continued practice. This is a terrific way for us to build a multitude of skilled playwrights who are based in Halifax and writing for the actors, directors and designers who work here.

The plays were all self-contained ten minute plays and it is likely that most of them will never be seen again, which gives the evening a sort of special magic, as we witness something that will never be recreated. There was one play, however, Ash by Emily Forrest that I just adored and I would really love to see a full-length play built around those characters and that compelling and beautiful story. Ash was just a beautiful little gem of a play, everything fit together just as it should, and Ann Doyle and Kristin Slaney gave lovely performances as the two sisters. There is so much potential in this ten minutes, the dynamics and the history and the future for these people has already been laid out so strongly, it is almost there begging to be explored in further depth. I am already looking forward to the next project to come from Emily Forrest. She’s one you should watch for!

Catherine Banks wrote this very short and sweet play called Boxed in Walheart, the Walmart equivalent in Stepford, which was a very fun and well-acted by Wayne Burns and Matthew Amyotte. Andrew Chandler wrote a charming little play called Beauregard v. Drexler, which suited the Once Upon A Theatre Collective ladies so perfectly. The play centered on two six year olds and their lawyers splitting the assets after the dissolution of a best friendship. Gina Thornhill gave an especially delightful and vulnerable performance as one of the children, while Lesley Smith was utterly brilliant as the sassy French lawyer, who reminded me ardently of the mother from Eloise. If Once Upon a Theatre Collective has writers in residence, I would vote for Andrew Chandler to be one of them.

Jessica Barry shone brightly in Kristin Slaney’s play Snookin’ For Inspiration playing a perky and passionate Snooki fan who ends up inspiring Snooki’s ghost writer to change his life. Slaney has some wonderful dynamics in this piece and I wanted to follow the journey of this stalker because she was so captivating and beautifully odd. Matthew Amyotte and Rhys Bevan-John added some great silly antics to a play called Hench’d written by Chris Nyarady, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

One thing that I would say to the playwrights, which I think is especially a challenge in very short plays, is to remember that plays come alive through conflict and the higher the stakes in that conflict the more captivating it is to watch.

In all, Once Upon An Evening of Short Plays was an engaging event and it is always so refreshing to know that people in this city are writing.

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