Rural Rogues on the Road
By Kate Butler
Published Nov. 26, 2019
It’s been said that theatre is a team sport. Everyone on the team has a role to play from the director to the actors and the stage crew to the costumers. In the world of community theatre, the team is most often found on their home stage, but what happens when they have to perform somewhere new?
On the weekend on Nov. 8-10, Rural Rogues Productions found out, when its members took part in the Eastern Ontario Drama League’s One Act Play Festival in Perth. For some readers, the festival might sound familiar, as in 2015, Highlands Little Theatre hosted the festival in Haliburton. HLT has taken plays to the festival in recent years in both Perth and Constance Bay, but this was the first time Rural Rogues participated.
The festival brings together theatre companies from all across the region, with eight different companies presenting nine plays this time. It’s an intense weekend of theatre with three plays being presented on the Friday evening, three on the Saturday afternoon and three on the Saturday evening.
Rural Rogues is a theatre group with a mandate to perform original works rooted in the history, culture and landscape of Haliburton County, and the troupe can most often be found performing outdoors on the grounds of the Haliburton Highlands Museum.
This past summer, we featured the work of four local playwrights and asked our audience to vote for which one should go to the festival – the resounding winner was This Is Our Home by Sue Vorvis, a play which tells the story of a couple planning their dream retirement home by reviewing the adventures they had over a summer of visits by friends and family.
As Rural Rogues is more used to performing outdoors, transplanting one of our shows to a traditional theatre space was a new adventure for us. Suddenly we had a stage with curtains, a sound system that didn’t have to run off batteries and a lighting system that wasn’t a question of the behaviour of the sun and clouds!
Even though we were provided with a great deal of background information by the host theatre, we know that some decisions would need to be made at the last minute, so we needed a tight-knit adaptable team. Roles needed to be swapped due to schedules and new duties, but before long were ready to roll with a cast of six made up of Lauren Forbes, John Jackson, Rita Jackson, Hannah Sadlier, Paul Vorvis and myself, playing a total of 17 characters. We were accompanied to Perth by a crew of three (Amy Brohm, Greg Sadlier and Sue Vorvis) and our director, Michael Clipperton.
For some in team, this was their first time taking part in a festival, while others were “veterans.” Festival work involves its own pressures – not just a new theatre, but tight time limits and adjudication. As part of the festival program, each group receives very particular time limits – time to load in sets and props (for us, 7:30 in the morning!) and one hour of rehearsal time in the theatre (during which, our tech crew needed to finalize our lighting plans). Each team is also timed with regard to how long it takes to put up and take down their set.
We hit the stage at about 9:30 on Saturday evening, fueled by copious amounts of caffeine and sugar, not to mention adrenaline! It seemed as if the 35 minute play was done in an instant, a blur of entrances, exits and high-speed costume changes. After striking our set, we waited to hear the adjudicator’s comments.
The adjudicator for this year’s festival was Annette Procunier, who in addition to being well-known in the theatre world, has also written the only handbook on adjudication, Do You See What I See? Festival adjudication was brand-new for some in our team, and as our director noted “the cast and crew of a production can be quite nervous about the process,” but that “[i]n its best form, the adjudication should be a conversation about the choices that were made.”
Procunier praised the play, saying that she could relate to experiences of the main characters. There can be no doubt that the work of festival adjudication must present challenges, taking in information about so many diverse plays.
At this year’s festival, there were new works by emerging playwrights and pieces by more established writers, as well as moments of both comedy and drama. In particular, the play presented just before ours by Peterborough Theatre Guild was a rather dark drama which addressed some very serious issues, and was thus extremely different from the comedy we presented. Our whole team agreed, however, that Procunier gave constructive feedback which they found valuable, and she did so without any notes. (We don’t know how she does it either!)
The festival was capped off with an awards brunch – the Tony Awards of the Eastern Ontario Drama League! We were absolutely delighted that Rogues member, Rita Jackson, was nominated for the Pauline Grant Award for Acting for her role as Laura.
Fortified with good food and lots of laughter, we prepared to make our way back to Haliburton. Though it had been a crazy weekend and everyone was looking forward to a little downtime, spirits were high. On the way back we chatted about lessons learned and good choices made, such as our decision to bring what was easily the most minimalist set in the festival. Some of us had learned the hard way in other years trying to take large pieces of furniture up narrow staircases!
There can be no doubt that each festival is a learning process, but each time we do it, we get better at it. So, not surprisingly, when I asked my fellow Rogues if they’d do it again, the answer from everyone was a resounding yes. We might just be reporting from EODL 2020 in Kemptville, but in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the theatrical exploits of Rural Rogues around your community!