Today, I finally got up at a reasonable time and made the workshops on time. I caught the first half of the double session on “Building a better board of directors”, and then switched over to a session on getting in-kind contributions.
After that I walked around a bit chatting with people then tried to find some lunch before the shows in the afternoon. One of the local restaurants was closed for a wedding, so when I got to the other one, it was filled, with a waiting line – made up of the director and the guy who played the salesman from “Crosswords” from the day before. Since I’d chatted a bit with the director on Wednesday, so I was able to join them. Before we got a table we were joined by three other members of their company. The program started at 1:15. We were seated at 12:55, were able to grab a waitress to take our order at 1:05, and got our food at about 1:14. Rushing through, we still weren’t able to get back to the theater before the show started and they sealed the doors. Fortunately, we were able to sneak into the balcony, and see most of the show, which was “I Never saw another Butterfly” performed by the Spokane Theater group. As we were coming out, the Crosswords’ director was convinced this was the front runner now, though I was not as impressed. It seemed to fall into the trap of “We’re about the Holocaust; it’s poignant as a rule”. Lots of children in this one. And as with also most of the plays in competition here, it involved a lot of a characters talking directly to the audience – of the ten plays so far, speaking to the audience played a major part in six of the plays, and a minor part in two others.
The final piece fell into that group as well. It was Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan” performed by the Venice Little Theater from Florida – the folks I ate dinner with on Thursday. They did it in sort of a circle style with everyone on stage the entire time and jumping into and out of roles (and costumes and accents) rapid-fire. They also added a bit just for this performance– Knowing that they were performing midafternoon, and seeing the fire exits on the side of the audience, at the end when the show, when the two gods return to heaven, they had them exit through the fire doors – flooding the auditorium with light for a very dramatic effect.
After that show, all that was left was the gala award dinner. (I wore my tuxedo).
It was held at a quaint hotel in Litchfield (which many of the participants had stayed). They had a nice jazz combo, and served rather tough chicken (I later discovered that the vegetarian meal was a nice pasta dish – I should have gone for that). Anyway, after the food, they got down to giving the awards. A bunch of lifetime and special awards to longtime AACT members, and then Technical Director’s Award to the group who made the TD’s life the easiest (…Forum).
Finally, the “real” awards: The adjudicators award first, second and third place, plus any number of awards for any aspect of the production. There were a number of awards for “Excellence in Acting” and “Excellences in an Ensemble Cast” (“Laramie” one of those; both “…Forum” and “Butterfly” received an ensemble award plus individual awards). Then there were awards for lighting, musical directions and choreography. There could be several awards in each of these categories and don’t necessary indicate “first place”, “second place” but just acknowledges general excellence. (I’m told that often these are given out as “consolation prize” for shows which didn’t make the top three)
After that, they gave out the big three: Third place was “Forum”; second, “Three Views”; and first … “I Never Saw Another Butterfly”. I had put those three and “Laramie” in the top four. I would have put Laramie higher and Butterfly lower, but I didn’t get to vote. Both “Laramie” and “Butterfly” have very similar themes, and the judges seemed to have tried for a variety of shows in the top three (musical-comedy, light drama monologue, and heavy drama ensemble piece). It was also the one with lots of kids and fresher in their minds, which may have also affected their decision.
Dan Boris, of the New Jersey Theater League kept his own diary of the festival, along with photos and a complete list of award winners, and posted it on line at http://www.geocities.com/danlb_2000
The play festival is only held every other years. The next one is in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. On even years, they just have a convention with lot of meetings and workshops, like the ones I described before. And the next in, in June 2004, will be held in NYC.