Mid March theatre abounds in Gore Bay, Manitowaning

MANITOULIN—The weekend after next (the beginning of March Break for schools if that helps in your orientation) Manitoulin people will have to opportunity of seeing not only one but two plays that each contributes to the understanding of the human condition.

Gore Bay Theatre always showcases its QUONTA Drama Festival offering for two performances prior to taking its play to competition.

This year the troupe, which, under the direction of Walter Maskel has proved successful in competition at both regional and provincial levels, has taken on the challenging play ‘Agnes of God’ (wordplay on the Latin phrase Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God).

The play (unlike the Norman Jewison movie that featured Jane Fonda and Anne Bancroft) features only three characters and the tale, set in a convent that revolves around the discovery of a dead, newborn baby, is a challenging role of each of the three characters who appears on stage.

In fact, ‘Agnes of God’ is considered one of the most challenging modern plays for actors so it is a tribute to co-directors Maskel and Andrea Emmerton and the Gore Bay Theatre cast of Shannon McMullen, Tara Bernatchez and young Kayla Greenman that they have risen to the challenge.

And risen they have, according to Walter Maskel who rates Ms. Greenman, a Grade 9 student at Manitoulin Secondary School, as being “in the top five of young actors I have encountered in 35 years of teaching drama.” (Prior to his retirement in Gore Bay, Mr. Maskel taught drama at Espanola High School and then headed the Dramatic Arts Program at Sudbury Secondary, the region’s arts “magnet” school.)

There will be two performances at the Gore Bay Community Hall: Saturday, March 14 at 8 pm and a Sunday matinee the next day at 2 pm.

Tickets are for sale at the door and the play is not recommended for audiences younger than 14.

‘Agnes of God’ was originally written for the stage,” Mr. Maskel says and its themes are so much better rendered by the “light and darkness, light and shadow that you can create on stage, much more so than on film.” He stressed that “besides the excellent acting, the play is a very theatrical one and so the lighting is a very important part of the experience.”

After this public viewing, the cast and crew travel Sault Ste. Marie the following week for competition with other Northeastern Ontario theatre groups in the QUONTA Drama Festival. The winner goes on to represent the North at the Theatre Ontario drama competition in mid-May.

The same Saturday evening, March 14, De-ba-jeh-ma-jig Theatre Group’s Creation Centre in Manitowaning is hosting a new play, ‘The Unplugging,’ which premiered in Ontario last week in Sudbury at the Capitol Theatre.

This play is in the Mad Max tradition (“after the apocalypse”) but much more benign and far more thoughtful.

First Nations veteran playwright Yvette Nolan has imagined the collapse of the electrical grid (not an uncommon musing among some futurists) and the struggle faced by two women (played by Sudbury’s Pandora Topp and Stratford veteran Jan Kudelka) exiled in the new circumstances from their village because they are too old to bear children.

A press release notes that, “faced by bleak prospects, they manage to survive in exile by following the teachings of their elders until a young man (played by North Bay’s Zachary Smithers, an emerging talent) interrupts their solitude with a treacherous invitation.”

The play is presented at the Creation Centre by North Road Theatre, and director Bill Lane said he knew Manitoulin would be a great place to perform ‘The Unplugging’ because, “the protagonists represent the struggle to keep the traditions alive—the same traditions that are still very much alive on the Island.”

‘The Unplugging’ will play at the Creation Centre in Manitowaning with the curtain going up at 8pm on Saturday, March 14. Tickets are available by calling the De-ba-jeh-ma-jig office at (705)859-1820.