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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Theatre Review Prize

Each year ACT awards a theatre review prize to the best review of theatre presented to Greg Doran in his UPEI Theatre Studies course. We are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s prize is Devin MacKinnon. Congratulations Devin.

Distance And Depravity: A review of Close and The Problem

By Devin MacKinnon

On Saturday, March 26th, 2011, I had the pleasure of attending two plays at the PEI
Theatre Festival at the Carrefour L’Isle-Saint-Jean in Charlottetown. The festival was divided
into two sections: a section for children and a section for more mature audiences. Close, written
and directed by UPEI student Dylan Riley, was the first play in the “mature” section. The play is about a young couple named Patrick (Ben Hartley) and Michelle (Toni Timmins). The play starts
with Patrick gazing out the window, commenting on the clouds, while Michelle is more
concerned about what he is going to wear to an engagement that they are scheduled to attend.
Suddenly, Michelle gets a phone call and learns that her grandfather has passed away. Upon
hearing the news, Michelle begins to tell Patrick about the few, unpleasant memories she has of
her grandfather. During this time, Patrick says very little, while trying to be as supportive as he
can. In the end, the couple is even further apart emotionally than they were when the play began.

The premise of the show was heartbreaking, and the irony of the title was not lost on any
members of the audience. At times, I found myself captivated with what was going on, and there
was a very intense atmosphere throughout the theatre. However, the play failed to keep me
captivated for the entirety of its run. The lack of physicality made the show seem very
monotonous. Both members of the cast were seated for more than half of the play, and they had
very little to do. The set consisted of nothing more than a table and a couch, while the extra
space of the theatre was hardly used. Moreover, while the emotional performance delivered by
Timmons was excellent, her lack of volume and projection made listening to her a struggle.
Hartley played the role of the desperate boyfriend extremely well, and I found him to be the
more sympathetic character of the two; however, he seemed to serve little purpose in the show,
aside from highlighting the irony of the title. He had very few lines, as compared to Timmins,
which made it difficult for me to establish either a connection or conflict between the two
characters. Another thing that took me out of the moment during the run of Close was the
atrocious sound cue about half way through. During a break in one of Timmins’ monologues, the
sound of rain and thunder began to play. The use of this sound cue was very awkward and
uncoordinated because the volume was much too loud at the beginning; furthermore, it seemed
to randomly fade to silence and was not heard again.

Despite these criticisms, I have to say that the show was entertaining and engaging at
times, and it is great to see students like Dylan taking strides to contribute to the PEI Theatre
scene. There were many positive aspects to the show and plenty of things for Dylan, Toni, and
Ben to improve on.

The second show of the evening was called The Problem. It starred real husband and wife
Richard and Marla Haines, and it was directed by Rob Reddin. The play began with an obviously
pregnant woman (Marla) walking on stage to discuss the “problem” (the baby) with her husband,
a professor (Richard). Upon hearing that the baby may not be his, but may belong to a
mysterious black man, the husband confesses to his wife that for the last several years he has
been pretending to go to an evening class twice a week so that he may rush down to their cellar,
disguise himself as a black man, and make love to her. In return, his wife tells him that she knew
all along that her mysterious lover was him, and, after the initial encounter, she has had a
mysterious woman take her place for all of these years. She then goes on to tell her husband that
she has been the “ghetto pass-around” ever since his charade started, so she has no idea who the
father may be. In the end, the audience learns that these are all lies and nothing more than kinky
stories that the couple makes up to fuel their depraved sexual appetite before making love. The
pregnancy is revealed to be nothing more than a balloon, and the couple dashes off stage to the

The Problem was uproariously funny, and it had the crowd in stitches for the duration of
its run. With each twist in the story, I found myself more engaged and fascinated by what was
happening on stage. Despite the fact that the male protagonist was seated for most of the play,
the play seemed very physical thanks to the director’s excellent use of the space and Richard’s
fantastic physical comedy. The real life relationship between the two characters gave the show
an interesting dynamic, so the connection between the two was genuine.

However, the mood of the show failed to match the audience’s reaction at times. There
were dull moments in the show where it felt as if the couple was simply going through the
motions. Marla struggled to match the projection and volume consistently delivered by Richard,
and the pace of the show was too fast. It felt as if the actors simply wanted to get the show over
with, and there were very few pauses for laughter.

On the whole, I enjoyed my evening at the PEI Theatre Festival. Both shows I had the
pleasure of taking in were excellent in their own respective ways, and I highly recommend any
theatre lover to check out next year’s festival.

Posted by RH_Admin on 06/15 at 12:29 PM
ACT NewsPermalink

Thursday, June 02, 2011


Advice wanted for nominating board members for 2011-12

  We know that it is a number of weeks away (near the end of August), but the ACT board is looking ahead to the annual general meeting of ACT—in particular, the yearly routine of renewing the Board.  For that, we could use your advice.
  ACT’s constitution calls for a Nominating Committee to prepare a slate of candidates in preparation for the election which is held at the AGM.  Other candidates can be nominated at the meeting, of course, but the purpose of the Nominating Committee is to make certain that there will be at least one nominee for each office that is becoming vacant.  The Nominating Committee this year is Rob Thomson, Janet Macdonald and Heather Parry.
  The 2-year terms of the various Board members are set up so that there is a sort of leap-frogging: about half the officers get elected in one year, the other half in the next year.  This year the offices which are coming due for election are these:
  • President   • Director of Theatre   • Membership Director
  There is also one other opening for an appointed position (which doesn’t have a specific term)—Coordinator for ACT-Out (organizing some social occasions - going to a play and having dinner or dessert).
  So ... here’s the point of this posting: we wonder if you, as an ACT member, would be able to suggest someone who you think would do a committed and effective job on the ACT board (... or may yourself wish to be considered for nomination.)
  The ‘position descriptions’ for each of the four offices are shown below this message.
  Could you please give this some thought and feed us (robthomson at any suggestions in the course of the next ten days (by Monday, June 13)?  Thanks.

The current Board, by the way, is this:
  • President - Richard Haines • Past-president - Rob Thomson
  • Vice-President - Rob Reddin   • Secretary - Bunty Albert
  • Treasurer - Janet Macdonald • Director of Theatre - Adam Gauthier
  • Membership Coordinator - Sophia Wong
  • Music Adviser/Guru - Carl Mathis
  • Readings Coordinator - Heather Parry
  • ‘Flex’ member & ACT-Out - Margaret MacEachern
  • Workshops Coordinator - Ben Rayner
  • UPEI Liaison - Devin MacKinnon

The positions ...

- Call meetings; set agenda; chair the meeting
- Look ahead: raise issues; ensure planning
- General coordination: keep in touch with participants; make sure doers are in touch with each other
- Call AGM; set agenda; chair the meeting
- Spokesperson for ACT when needed
- Arrange any general publicity (apart from particular shows)
- ‘Foreign affairs’ - representative of ACT; liaison with other parties
- Handling of any requests to borrow items from ACT’s collection of props, costumes, set-pieces etc
- File annual return form (info re officers, etc.) to keep registration as a non-profit company

Director of Theatre
- Plan the production year (September to June): find, encourage, arrange for persons to plan and direct productions, so that ACT will present a suitable number (3 has been a rule-of-thumb standard, but is not the absolute number) and variety of shows for its annual season.  Preferably such planning involves much discussion with others.
- Plan/arrange for (with a fair degree of certainty) these elements of a show:
- the Director, in combination with the Director’s choice of play (or willingness to do the play proposed by the Director of Theatre)
- the rights to perform the play
- the timing (dates of performance, framework for auditions and rehearsals)
- the venue
- a rough budget
- the Producer (... and preferably the Stage Manager)
- Present – with the proponent-Director of a show, using ACT’s standard form/guideline for proposing a show – the plans to the Board for approval.  (The Board as a body must give permission to launch a production which uses ACT’s name and money.)
- Ensure that there is continuing liaison between the person(s) staging a show and the ACT Board
- Contribute views and take part in decisions on all matters which come before the Board as a body

Membership Director
- Act as the ‘keeper’ of policies/rules regarding membership
- Promote, at any opportunity, interest in joining ACT
  ... including ensuring membership on the part of on-stage participants in ACT productions (chiefly by doing a ‘sales’ job at the first gathering of participants)
- Handle applications, process payment of dues ... including issuance of receipts and member cards
- Maintain list of current members and contact information ... and provide for use as needed
- Facilitate members’ use of ticket-discount benefit
- Contribute views and take part in decisions on all matters which come before the Board as a body

ACT-Out Coordinator
- Organize (roughly once every month or two) entertainment/social events for ACT members to enjoy together:
- ‘research’ and consult ... choose theatre productions or comparable activities/events* to attend, normally in combination with a restaurant meal or other dining-sort of activity (e.g. wine-and-cheese, dessert) * Note that it need not be a play - example: concert, film
- Make arrangements - e.g. reservations, way to acquire tickets
- Publicize the outing among members and encourage participation
- Contribute views and take part in decisions on all matters which come before the Board as a body

Posted by RobAdmin on 06/02 at 03:00 PM
ACT NewsPermalink


Get involved in a good project

  The PEI Community Theatre Festival—held at the Carrefour on Saturday afternoon, March 26th—was a wonderful success ... far more audience than expected, a fine experience for scores of participating thespians, no significant problems, a simple but effective concept of true community theatre.  That was the second year for the Festival in its renewed form: ACT - a community theatre spear-headed its re-creation after a lapse from earlier production by Theatre PEI.
  Organization of these two festivals was done by a committee of three or four persons ... and it proved to be effective and remarkably easy.
  The reason for this message is to recruit members for that committee.  Two of us are pulling back from overall responsibility on the core group ... although we’ll probably be available for particular tasks such as publicity, awards, sponsorships and such.
   Work on the core committee is not all that onerous.  We found that in the fall there was actually very little for the organizing committee to do—just some general planning + recruiting participant community-theatre groups.  Arrangements-making—choosing and securing venue(s) and a technician, organizing refreshments, getting an adjudicator, etc.—got done after we knew how many and who were the participant groups.  That is, the main work happened in January, February, March.  It took just three or four committee meetings, apart from the ‘homework’ between meetings, of course.  We have two years of experience and written materials which provide guidance for making things happen without a whole lot of stress.
  The Theatre Festival is riding on the momentum of two successful years.  It’s a very worthwhile project, and organizing it is pretty straightforward—and rewarding.
  Do you think this might be something for you to get involved in?

Posted by RobAdmin on 06/02 at 11:06 AM
ACT NewsPermalink
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