TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival 13

by Jeff Pitcher on September 28, 2013

That’s TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival 13 in the archives! It was a close ensemble group who were focused, energetic and totally dedicated to telling the story. I had a great summer!

“Two” by Jim Cartwright was directed by Michael Waller and proved to be quite a success – it was funny yet poignant and most audiences came away enthusiastically applauding the show. I heard a few comments that the play was too dark when in the end a reason for the couple’s bickering is revealed. To me, this is great theatre and wonderful story-telling – love wins the day and the couple comes together – it’s a happy ending! It was great work from Michael, Jennifer Furlong and Stuart Simpson.

“The Belle of Bonavista Bay” by Philip Goulding and a production I directed also proved to be an audience-pleaser. The set design by Brian Ball, currently based in Vancouver, and a terrific visual artist   was exceptional and very creative. Our casting couldn’t have been better – the play could have been written for Stephanie Payne in the lead role playing across from Colin Furlong. Miranda Power and Craig Haley were also terrific in two wonderful ‘character’ roles.

“With Cruel Times in Between” adapted by SaraH McDonald was/is a wonderful play evoking the poetry and story-telling of our much-loved Al Pittman. I believe SaraH did a wonderful job in creating a play that is very much Al’s personality. The pieces she chose certainly reveals an inner soul of Newfoundland through the 50’s and 60’s and her simple choreographed direction only added to Al’s words.

I loved our “Neddy Norris Night” this year – I love it every year but the musical direction and composition of the show by Cow Head’s own Stephanie Payne seems to grow each year. I’m so glad we moved a few years ago to focusing the show more and more on the traditional songs and stories. Stephanie’s total commitment to the work and her care in choosing the music and directing the actors is wonderful. While I enjoy the show in the round there was a lot of discussion with Stephanie this year about positioning the show in the Ethie room. She feels that “in the round” doesn’t work as well for the singers; the audience is not getting the harmonies, etc. I’m reluctant to put the show back on the “Ethie” stage so this upcoming year we’ll be discussing and exploring new ways of presenting the piece in that room.

“The Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” by Shane Ellis-Coates had another great year – thanks to the wonderful cast who bring so much to making the show exciting and new each season. Claire Hewlett was wonderful and even managed to create a new side character! It was a lovely, energetic Ethie this year.

“Newfoundland Vinyl – The Flip Side” with Music Direction by Allison Crowe picked up where we left it after its premiere season – except it got better. A little less of the Eds and a little more of the music. Allison is an absolute wonder and joy to work with. She’s focused, knowledgeable and absolutely wonderful in how she works with the actors in achieving brilliant performances. She spends a lot of time choosing the songs, stripping them down and rebuilding with a love and care that shows in the performance.

Our ‘Workshop Week’ proved to be as exciting as usual – so much so that I’m hoping to give it a little more publicity next year – making the week much more of an event. The reads themselves are entertaining and the discussions afterward are fun and engaging – I believe the general public would find it all interesting and exciting. This year we read, “A Fairground Sunday” by Meghan Greeley, “A Man, A Fish” by D.M. Bernard, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh, and “The Known Soldier” by Jeff Pitcher. We also had two special projects. It was a three day workshop of “Parkdale” by Louise Gautier which proved to be an exciting session. I was her dramaturge as she jumped into reworking her play and perhaps looking for a way to make it a one woman show. I’m hoping to check in with her again when I’m back in Corner Brook in January/February.

We also read “Gros Mourn” by the Mummers Troupe. In thinking about creating a new work about the environment on the west coast of Newfoundland we decided to read this play which was created in 1973 and first performed at the signing of the provincial/federal agreement in August of that year – by total coincidence our reading of the play missed the actual 40 year anniversary by a day! With the assistance of a small grant from the Cultural Blueprint people we had Chris Brookes, an original creator of the play with us along with invited Parks Canada representatives and the general public. The reading featured the entire cast of this year’s festival and proved to be an exciting day that I believe gave us the spark to follow through and continue our research and investigations of creating a new play.

Our ‘Stage Head Academy’ under the direction of our Artistic Associate SaraH McDonald was again a wonderful success. This year the Academy was split with a week in Cow Head and a week in Corner Brook. This two week intensive for students between the ages of 16 and 19 has proven to be an important stepping stone for young students in high school who are contemplating a career in the theatre.

Our Monday Night “Who’s Darkening Our Door Tonight” series was again a success. Featured performers included; Spree, a local west coast group, The Sharecroppers, Daniel and Stephanie Payne, Matthew Byrne, Ian Foster, Daniel Payne, Morgan Davis, Kelly Russell and his show “Tunes and Tales from Pigeon Inlet,” Stephanie Payne and Avalon Stanley.

That’s it! The planning for Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s 2014 season is already underway. 2014 marks the 100th year anniversary of the start of World War I so you can bet we’ll be doing a few things to commemorate that important anniversary for Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re also going to launch into the commission of new play that will be ready for the 2015 season. We’re aiming to hold auditions in Corner Brook and St. John’s sometime in November 2013 and to confirm the 2014 season in January – from there we begin the work all over again of planning a 16 week season with over 160 performances in our two lovely and intimate spaces in Cow Head, Newfoundland on the shores of the Shallow Bay nestled at the foot of the Long Range Mountains on our Great Northern Peninsula!

Now for 2014…



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