The Williams Lake Studio Theatre’s production of Hand to God was much acclaimed at the Central Interior Zone festival in Prince George May 23-26.
Alongside best play, best ensemble and best director, the play won a series of technical awards at the honours ceremony, following the three plays.
‘It was a tremendous surprise, but really exciting,” said director Jay Goddard. “We worked hard so it felt good.”
The festival is one of a series of festivals across the province, where community theatre groups bring productions to zone festivals where they are adjudicated and given a chance to head to Theatre BC’s Mainstage festival, showcasing the best from across the province.
Hand to God competed against two plays from Prince George: 12 Angry Jurors, performed by the Judy Russell Presents theatre company, and The God of Hell, presented by Pocket Theatre.
Each play is given four hours to build their set on the stage at the Prince George Playhouse, before performing in front of an adjudicator and audience.
Keith Digby, the adjudicator, has an extensive background in professional theatre, working as a director at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, and across Canada, and is also known for his screen writing. Now based in British Columbia, he directs and produces at a community theatre in Victoria, and adjudicates festivals across the province.
After each production, he gave a two-hour coffee critique, working with actors, directors and crew on what each show did well, and what they could improve.
“The coffee critique is always a bit humbling for a director, but I learned a lot that will make our production that much better,” said Goddard.
Actress Jessica Smithson, who plays, coincidentally, Jessica in Hand to God, said the whole experience was a learning experience.
As a first-time actress with the Studio Theatre, it was also her first time at the festival.
“Festival was actually way more fun than I expected,” she said. “I was worried we would be really harshly critiqued, but the adjudicator helped us all really find out who our characters are and their development throughout the story.”
While she said the set up was stressful, due to the time constraints and shorter prep time, she said she’s looking forward to the Mainstage experience and checking out the workshops and other plays the festival has to offer.
“I thought the experience would have me so exhausted I’d be done with it, but it has sort of opened up a bit of yearning to get into more performing when Hand to God is done.”
Hand to God will repeat the set building and tear down experience at Mainstage at the start of July, but hope to perform a couple more performances in Williams Lake.
“I’m looking forward to the whole Mainstage time,” said Jay Goddard. “It’s always a learning experience. I hope we can bring home an award, but that’s not the main reason for going.”
He hopes to bring Hand to God back to the stage in Williams Lake, before heading to Mainstage.