Gore Bay Theatre wins four awards at Theatre Ontario Festival 2019

Provincial award winners! ‘This Is How We Got Here’ won big at the Theatre Ontario Festival last week. From left are Gore Bay Theatre cast members John Robertson, Tara Bernatchez and Will Smith being presented with the ensemble acting award by a representative of Theatre Ontario on Sunday. Gore Bay Theatre cast member Shannon McMullan was not on hand for the awards ceremony as she opened the Perivale Gallery in Spring Bay for the season.

GORE BAY – Gore Bay Theatre performed its Northern Ontario winning production of ‘This is How We Got Here’ at the Theatre Ontario Festival last week at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. The festival featured the top award-winning theatre groups from every region of the province. At the awards banquet, Gore Bay Theatre walked away with four prestigious awards, placing second in most awards received at the festival.

Gore Bay Theatre is the smallest community to ever compete at the Theatre Ontario Festival and did Gore Bay, the Island and the region proud. It was the only group to win an ensemble acting award for strength in storytelling with Tara Bernatchez, Shannon McMullan, John Robertson and Will Smith sharing the highly respected acting award.

As co-director Walter Maskel said, “an ensemble acting award refers to the overall effect of all the actors working together with total teamwork producing a balanced and unified performance in harmony with all the actors. It is what directors and cast members strive for and it is a great honour to receive the accolade.”

Will Smith won the Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Supporting Role Award and Vern Dorge won an adjudicator’s award for original music. Shannon McMullan was also nominated for the Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Supporting Role Award.

The group also received an award for best visual presentation, presented to co-directors Andrea Emmerton and Walter Maskel. The adjudicator said that the set and lighting design were “amazing, beautiful and immediately captured the essence of Northern Ontario.” 

Ms. Emmerton added, “we were competing against groups from major cities that had many more resources than us, so receiving this award was extremely gratifying.”

Well-known director and Theatre Ontario Board member and writer Ken Stephen said the set was “evocative and worked beautifully for the piece” and that “the actors were able to engage and make the audience feel invested in the characters and their fates. With sincerity, humour and, above all, with compassion, the production from Gore Bay Theatre has brought that truth to vivid emphatic life.”

Keith Barker, the playwright of ‘This is How We Got Here,’ was able to see the performance and meet company members after the performance. Mr. Maskel said, “he was very complimentary about the production and said he would try to see the production when it is performed in July as part of Gore Bay Theatre’s summer season.”

Ms. Emmerton said, “everyone was amazed that such a small town with 12 (stage) lights could produce such award-winning visuals and award-winning ensemble acting.” 

Mr. Maskel added, “Gore Bay Theatre received six awards at the Northern Ontario Drama Festival and four awards at the Theatre Ontario Festival for a total of 10 awards, tying a group from Kingston for the most awards received by any community theatre group in the province this year. We are well known in the province for the commitment we have for the art, the quality of theatre we produce and no one is still asking us ‘where is Gore Bay?’”