The curtain will be pulled back for Theatre Antigonish’s (TA) always popular One Act Play Festival March 23 to 25.
Briana Lynch, an organizer with the festival, said there has been “quite a bit of interest” so far.
“So we’re really excited to see the shows that come out of that,” Lynch said.
She was asked about the festival coming up less than two-weeks after TA’s latest show, Eurydice, ended its run March 11.
“There usually is,” Lynch said of a longer gap between productions in past seasons.
“Other seasons, the winter show (Eurydice this year) has been in February but, in past years, there has been a lot of complications with weather, (St. F.X.) students’ week off and things like that, so, we thought, finding weekends that work for everybody is better.
“So it was pushed into March so, yes, it’s kind of a quick turnover from the last show to the one-acts … it’s a little unusual. But, again, February is so unpredictable; the thinking is, maybe, we will not have to cancel shows and we can get more of an audience out.”
Lynch said the festival is a great opportunity for people to explore theatre as a writer, director or performer. She talked more about the opportunities for a writer, in particular.
“There are very few platforms where you can just say, ‘I have a script and I want to put it on,’ … it’s really hard to break into that world,” she said, referring to theatre.
“Then you need a crew and things, quickly, become expensive if you’re trying to do a production on your own. So this is a great opportunity for people to explore this world and see all aspects of it.
“You have a script but now you’re thinking about lighting and props and all of that other stuff which, suddenly, you’re responsible for and, maybe, you didn’t think about while you were writing it. So it gives you a different perspective coming from just the writing of it.”
Falling into that category of new writers and even newer theatre writers are Majd Al Zhouri and Brendan Ahern who have adapted Al Zhouri’s stories of seeing his home country of Syria being torn apart by war and turning it into a one-man stage production; a stage production they’re bring to the festival.
“I was writing it as a story; we made it for the stage,” Al Zhouri, whose family has made Antigonish their home since January of 2016, said.
“It’s even more personal,” he said of the script.
“As a kid, 15, seeing something he never thought he would see; a war, every day.”
Ahern, who has been involved in the festival in the past, talked about the process he and Al Zhouri shared.
“Majd had written something with ACALA (Antigonish County Adult Learning Association); that is what we started working with and it has changed a lot since then,” he said.
“Mostly it was me just sitting down with Majd with a recorder and talking, and we went from there.
“I think it was Sheldon Currie, he told us when we were trying to write plays back in 2006 – me and some friends did a writing workshop with him back in Grade 12 – he told us it’s always better when starting a one-act to think of it as a short story … write it as a short story first. So we had a good start from the beginning,” Ahern said, referencing Al Zhouri’s original stories.
Ahern said they were very “candid” conversations.
“About a year that was spent in a city that was, essentially, under siege,” he said.
“That year and then the movement, where the people in the city decided to leave … it covers that.
“It’s grounded in, just, this 15-year-old’s experience. That was our main concern, to stay grounded in that. There are no characters per se; it’s just as if you had this young man telling a group of people, who happens to be the audience that night, what this experience was like. Sitting down and just listening to someone talking to you; getting something off their chest.”
Al Zhouri added the writing was very much like that; a release for him.
“The reason I decided to do this is because it’s something in me and I want to get it out,” Al Zhouri said.
“I searched for a year for a way to get it out. I found this might be the only way to get it out and give it to the audience.
“I decided to do it this way, to tell my story, just to get some of my pain out,” he added. “I’m not saying I’ll be able to forget all of that because you would never be able to forget all of that but, you feel this is a way to deal with it, a way to survive with it.”
Al Zhouri said he and Ahern may expand on the one-act script.
“Maybe something bigger if this works well; if people like it,” he said.
“It’s hard to make such a big story into a one-act. Trying to shorten it was hard so, I think, if we have time to do a big play, it might be easier for us.”
This will be Al Zhouri’s second TA involvement of the season after having a lead role in the production which kicked of the 2016-17 season, The Ash Girl, which ran in November. He talked about the importance of the prior experience.
“I never expected myself to be on stage,” he said.
“Even in my own language, I never expected myself to act. When I came here, I liked the idea of acting. I liked the experience; The Ash Girl experience helped me a lot to do this. Without that experience I wouldn’t even be thinking about theatre.”
Ahern talked about TA, and the festival in particular, as providing that kind of exploratory ground.
“I have found the one-act play festival and Theatre Antigonish in general has created very fertile ground in Antigonish for anyone who wants to try their hand at theatre,” he said.
“It’s always been challenging, it takes you out of your comfort zone, but not in an overly intimidating way … it’s in a realistic way. For anyone who wants to give it a go, they have a good foundation to start from.”
Lynch echoed the thought.
“It’s very supportive and has been around for years so people know about it,” she said.
“And theatre is such a unique atmosphere … it’s a place where you can lose or find yourself. You walk out on that stage and forget about everything else … for however long you’re out there, nothing else matters.”
For more on TA, including an eventual festival schedule, visit their Facebook page or website at stfx.ca/theatreantigonish.