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The cast of "Love: An Algo-Rhythmic Study." // Photo courtesy of Margaret Dahlberg.

Pumphouse Theatre hosts Calgary Region One-Act Play Festival

By Troy Hasselman, March 2 2020 —

Calgarians will have a chance to see work from our cities’ up-and-coming theatre artists with the 37th Annual Calgary Region One-Act Play Festival, coming from the Pumphouse Theatre in collaboration with the Alberta Drama Festivals Association (ADFA). This festival will include 10 one-act plays over four nights and is one of nine regional one-act play festivals held across the province every year, with winners going on to partake in the Provincial One-Act Play festival that happens every May in Canmore.

“It’s ultimate goal is to provide for non-professional artists — whether it’s emerging or community or independent — an opportunity to showcase their work,” Pumphouse Theatre programming Director Kelly Malcolm says. “There are about nine different regions throughout the province and each region has their own one-act play festival. At the end of each regional festival, we all come together and do a provincial festival as well. It’s a way to connect Alberta through community, non-professional theatre.”

The festival will be adjudicated by a surprise special guest who will hand out awards on the final night of the festival and deliver public remarks to the audience and performers at the end of each night of the festival. The adjudicator is selected by a committee involving members of the Pumphouse Theatre team and the Calgary regional representative in the ADFA.

Courtesy of Pumphouse Theatre

“We look for an individual who has a connection with the city, first and foremost, and we look for someone who has some experience with providing a backing to artists in the past or has strong connections with the theatre community whether they are professional actors, directors or playwrights,” Malcolm says. “We ideally are looking for someone who can give critical or positive feedback to all of our participants because ideally these are folks who are participating in the festival. This is the first time they will be representing a particular work. By doing it here and getting that feedback, they can take that work and move it onto the next level whether that be at fringe festival, another kind of festival or its own production somewhere in the city.”

Another aspect that differentiates the One-Act Play Festival from others is the first-come, first-serve selection process for acts to take part in the festival. With no curator or selection process involved, acts are able to take part so long as they fit the criteria of being under 60 minutes and being made up of a non-professional cast. The festival has a wide variety of types of plays shown with dramas, comedies, new works and classics all represented.

“There is a wide range of pieces that people come up with either as original works or they have written themselves and are producing themselves,” Malcom says. “There are strange or interesting or well known one act plays that have been produced for many years so it is a mixed bag depending on who gets to submit their work each particular year. We have a movement piece, we have straight up comedy, quite a range through the board and we try and mix it up every night. So if you’re not coming one night we try to mix it up so it’s not drama, after drama, after drama. So you get a bit of all the emotional range when you come to the shows.”

Poster of “The Shift.” // Courtesy of Morpheus Theatre.

This years festival will have a mixture of new and returning theatre companies offering up some plays that heavily contrast in tone from one another. For example the Thursday night of the festival will include a drama which focuses on the issue of women’s bodily autonomy and will be followed by a lighthearted political comedy. The festival will also include work from established Calgry theatre companies such as the Confederation Theatre Society and the Morpheus Theatre Comapny, which has been producing work for the past two decades and wil be presenting their work called The Shift, which tells the story of two people sturggling to connect with one another in a world dominated by artificial intellgience technology.

“We have a couple of people who have returned to the one act festival and have participated in the past,” Malcolm says. “For example, Reckless Daughters Creative have participated in the festival before and they have presented a work by Madeline Greg called The Way we Burn which is all about seven different women who are navigating through figuring out bodily autonomy. It’s quite a more serious work. On the same night we have a completely new company in town. I.D.G.A.F. Theatre and they’re presenting a political-comedy called The Face-off which brings together political fans in kind of a hockey setting and they duke it out to support each political party. Just that night we have quite a range. I’d say in those two we have up-and-coming, new and emerging artists. We also have two groups who are emerging in the festival who have been established community theatre companies in the city here for the past few years. We have Morpheus Theatre who have been around for the past 20 years and Confederation Theatre Society which has been around for the past three years. ”

Malcolm says one of the best aspects of the festival is the role it plays in building support for community theatre and spreading the love of theatre amongst those getting started with the medium by making theatre accesible to performers and audiences alike.

“What’s great about this particular festival is that it really does support community and non-professional theatre,” Malcolm says. “Oftentimes in these communities or small rehearsal halls in people’s basements, the love of theatre is continued. It’s organizations and small companies like this that come to festivals like ours that really keeps the love of theatre around in the community. The festival is really here to showcase that you don’t have to go out and buy a $80 ticket to go out and see an amazing show at Theatre Calgary. You can see a show on a community level and still be blown away. It’s not to say that those other companies aren’t great. They’re wonderful, but I think people kind of forget that community theatre is where it starts and continues.”

The Calgary Region One-Act Play Festival runs March 18–21 at the Pumphouse Theatre. Tickets for single nights of the festival cost $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, while full festival passes cost $40 for adults and $30 for students and seniors. More information about the festival, including a festival schedule with a list of participating plays and information about the theatre companies involved can be found at pumphousetheatre.ca.

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