The cast and crew of the Nanaimo Theatre Group’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank are heading to Port Alberni this week to face off against the top community theatre companies in the province at the Theatre B.C. Mainstage Festival.
The NTG advanced to Mainstage after winning the North Island Zone Festival in May. There are seven other groups competing at Mainstage: The North Shore Zone’s Well Planned Theatre Company is presenting Hidden In This Picture by Aaron Sorkin, the Peace River Zone’s Stage North Theatre Society is doing Between The Sheets by Jordi Mand, the Fraser Valley Zone’s Langley Players Drama Club is staging Dancing At Lughnasa by Brian Friel, the Central Interior Zone’s Williams Lake Studio Theatre is performing Cherry Docs by David Gow, the South Island Zone’s Ladysmith Little Theatre is staging Stones In His Pockets by Marie Jones, the Okanagan Zone’s Theatre Kelowna Society is presenting Late Company by Jordan Tannahill and this year’s wildcard is the Fraser Valley Zone’s Opening Nite Theatre Society, which is doing Age Of Arousal by Linda Griffiths.
The festival runs from July 5 to 13 and all productions will be staged at the Alberni District Secondary School Theatre.
This is the first time since 2008 that the provincial competition is being held in Theatre B.C.’s North Island Zone, and as the host company the NTG is opening the festival.
Wendy Wearne is directing The Diary of Anne Frank. She and some cast and crew members have competed at Mainstage in the past and she said that experience will be helpful. But she added that there are challenges to being the first group to perform.
“There’s the added pressure of being in the new venue for the first time for everybody to watch,” Wearne said. “So if there are any issues with sound or sightlines or anything particular with this theatre, we’re the ones that test the ice for the first time, so to speak. So if it cracks and we go through, well, somebody gets to benefit from that mistake.”
Nanaimo playwright Michael Armstrong adjudicated the north Island competition and said there were a number of factors that led him to name the NTG the winner.
“It’s an absolutely relevant piece of theatre, particularly given the situation that’s going on in the world right now with the rise of fascism…” Armstrong said. “They were committed to telling the story in a passionate and engaged manner. Costumes, wonderful. Sound projections. So may great technical achievements for the show so there were a lot of things going on.”
Before leaving for Port Alberni, the NTG worked with Armstrong to further improve the production based on his feedback and then remounted the play for three performances at its home base, Bailey Studio.
Armstrong said the NTG has a “very good chance” to win the provincial competition.
“I’ve been to a number of Mainstages, I’ve adjudicated Mainstage and looking at this piece, if they clean up some of the loose ends and get a good performance, I think it’s going to be a really, really strong contender,” he said.