CANMORE – Sometimes magic just happens in the theatre world and when directors were choosing one-act plays for the upcoming Pine Tree Players festival, there may have been an enchantment at work.
Director Tyler McClaron used very practical and understandable considerations when he was looking for the right production to take on for a class of youth actors he would be working with.
There was the size of the cast – six characters – the complexity of the production – with youthful and inexperienced players at his command. The play also had to be within the catalogue that Pine Tree had available.
The search resulted in a choice that McClaron found fit well with the resources he was working with – The Bad Children by Shirley Jackson.
“To me, it really jumped out as a playful piece and anybody who has ever worked with me would probably say I am into the play element to theatre,” McClaron said. “We are players and there needs to be fun for us, as well as the audience and this play is rife with magical elements. It is a fairy tale with a twist.”
The Bad Children is indeed a modern fairy tale that follows the classic children’s literature characters of Hansel and Gretel. The twist, however, is that the children are the wicked ones and the charming witch is nervous about what they might do to her.
But as it turns out, The Bad Children is also the very first play put on by the Pine Tree Players in 1978 when the theatre group launched.
For the festival’s producer Jen Tweddell it was a happy coincidence that comes on the heels of the Pine Tree celebrating its 40th anniversary as a community theatre group last year.
“It was a bit serendipitous,” Tweddell said. “We didn’t actually pitch it to Tyler to do The Bad Children, but we have a huge archive of different scripts – some that we have put on and some that we have not.
“We gave him access to that and he selected it.”
Pine Tree Players and artsPlace partnered to create a youth acting class taught by McClaron to stage the one-act play. Young actors had to audition for the program and the end result of the collaboration is that participants will be featured in the upcoming festival program.
The young actors in the one-act play – Aven Achenback, Myla Corey, Morgan Lowry, Cirdan Monteith, Jed Saul and Gabby Vos De Wael – have been working with McClaron since October to be ready for the festival.
The other three one-act plays include: Vivien by Percy Granger, This Is A Play by Daniel MacIvor and Robert Scott’s 12Hr Life.
In Vivien, a young director takes his long lost father to see the production of The Seagull and along the way they each reveal something about themselves. Danelle White is directing with performances by Henjo Nettesheim, Marilu Adams and
White said she was drawn to the play because of the tension between the two characters it delves into.
“There is vulnerability in this interaction, but they constantly try to keep each other at arms length,” she said. “Both Paul, the son, and Vivien, the estranged father, have strong expectations for what they want out of the day, but they eventually learn what they need is to help the other instead.”
White is a recent graduate of the School of Performing Arts at the University of Calgary and wants to be a director – sharing and creating stories with a purpose whether it is for enlightenment or entertainment.
“This is my first time with PTP,” she said. “I am having a wonderful time, working with a fantastic community of people filled with fresh faces and seasoned storytellers.”
Daniel MacIvor’s metaplay – This Is A Play – follows three actors while they perform, revealing their thoughts and motivations as they struggle. Banff Theatre Collective’s Timothy Eckmeir directs and acts along with fellow cast members and BTC regulars Shannon Andrew, Kat Bard
and Joe Guttridge.
First-time director Faith Morgan takes on Robert Scott’s 12Hr Life for the festival. Colton Darnell and Kaitlyn Hoover play the main characters Dylan and Samantha who have a chance life encounter with each other.
Pine Tree opens up its auditions for the one act play festival each year to novice or new actors, as well as directors, to gain valuable experience in the theatre world. Tweddell said one-act plays are a great opportunity to gain experience without committing to a full production.
“You can really dive into a small production and get experience before you go bigger,” she said. “It is a great opportunity to learn hands on, but not take on too much at the beginning because you are still learning.”
That also includes the back of house, or production roles, like props, costumes, staging, lighting and sound roles. Tweddell said Pine Tree also provides learning opportunities for those wishing to contribute toward community theatre, but not wanting to be on the stage or in the
Pine Tree will also take a selection of the plays from its festival to the regional one-act play competition to be held in High River at the end of April. The two-day event features a dozen one-act plays from throughout Alberta competing against each other.
The Pine Tree Players One Act Play Festival launches next Wednesday (Feb. 20) with a pay what you can night open to the entire community. The Festival runs each night at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday (Feb. 23) and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday (Feb. 24) with the production at the Canmore Miners’ Union Hall.
Tickets are $20 and available through pinetreeplayers.com, Café Books and at the door. Discounts on tickets are also available through the Town of Canmore’s Affordable Services Program.