The Williams Lake Studio Theatre’s production of Over the River and Through the Woods won best production at the Central Interior Zone Festival in Kersley last weekend.
The festival was hosted by the Kersley Players and featured four plays: Closer and Over the River and Through the Woods from Williams Lake; Bad Fishing by the Kersley Players: and Godfather Death from the Prince George’s Pocket Theatre.
Michael Armstrong, an actor, director, playwright and professor based out of Victoria, adjudicated the festival. He critiqued plays and gave workshops in order to help the productions and actors improve.
As winners, Over the River will compete at the Mainstage Festival, a B.C. – wide event hosted in Kamloops in July.
In order to prepare themselves for the festival, the Over the River and Through the Woods cast and crew participated in a six-hour workshop with Armstrong Sunday morning.
“Michael [Armstrong] gave us some invaluable tips on how we could improve the overall production,” said director Tony Savile.
“It was intense. He came up with some really great ideas,” Savile said.
This was Savile’s first time directing a play at festival.
During the workshop Armstrong put the actors through their paces, reworking scenes and throwing out ideas and thoughts for the actors to build on.
“I’m opening doors for them and hopefully they will step through those doors and change and grow,” said Armstrong, who also adjudicated the North Island Zone Festival.
“I’m excited to see them at Mainstage,” Armstrong said. “I’ll be looking to see if I make a difference.”
For now, the Over the River cast and crew will take a short break in order to “decompress.”
Soon though, they will restart rehearsals in order to prepare the play for the Mainstage Festival.
“I’m really so excited to go to Mainstage,” said Kara Pare, 16, who won best youth performance for her part in Over the River.
“I am ecstatic, especially to watch the other plays. I am really excited to see all the different creativity that everyone displays.”
The Mainstage Festival features 10 plays from across the province in an eight-day extravaganza including script readings, workshops, play critiques, theatre courses, and a final awards ceremony. “I’d like to win,” Savile said. “But overall I want learn what I can from the adjudicator and coffee critique and learn more tricks of the trade.”
“It’s trying, it’s time consuming, it’s exciting, it’s energizing, it’s confusing, it’s scary. It’s all of those things. But mostly, it’s fun,” he said.
Armstrong handed out several other awards at the CIZ festival.
Closer’s Kathleen MacDonald won Best Supporting Actress and Bobby-Jo MacNair won Best Performance by a first time actor.
In Over the River and Through the Woods, Michael Rawluk won best actor, Sylvia Smith won best actress, and Kara Pare won best youth performance.
For the same production, Tony Savile and Sylvia Smith won best set, and Shane Tollefson won best lighting.
The Kersley Players’ Gary Minnet won best supporting actor.
Allison Haley won best director and Frank Caffrey received an honourable mention for best actor in Godfather Death, which also received awards for best sound, best visual presentation and best backstage.