“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop…”
No, this is not that Zone, but it does fit with what will be taking place in Vernon all next week when the Okanagan Zone (OZone) Drama Festival brings six diverse, community-based theatrical productions to Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre stage.
“We have from serious drama to dark comedy to espionage,” said OZone chair Adele Kuyek, who is no stranger to the local stage, having directed a number of plays at Powerhouse, Asparagus Community Theatre in Armstrong and Shuswap Theatre in Salmon Arm.
For those who don’t know what OZone is, it’s held at twilight, and is a community of regional amateur theatres from this area, who get together every year to produce plays to the public and an adjudicator. The plays stage one after the other on one stage, meaning crews have to set up and tear down at a faster rate than normal.
The festival ends with a ceremony, where production, acting, directing, and best overall awards are handed out, and the winning production gets to attend Theatre BC’s Mainstage Festival, where other winning plays from other regional zones compete.
In summary, it’s the Oscars of B.C. community theatre.
This is the third year the OZones have been held at Powerhouse Theatre. The first year, Powerhouse hosted the festival as a member club, while the past two years the OZone committee has hosted it, with Powerhouse as the venue.
“Powerhouse has been amazing. Its members have been volunteering to help the zone, which has been so incredible. We’ve been working with a great committee this year to make the festival viable and we already have two member theatres hosting the festival the next two years,” said Kuyek, referring to the South Okanagan Amateur Players Society hosting the festival in Oliver in 2016, while Salmon Arm’s Shuswap Theatre is slated to host in 2017.
This year, three of the directors bringing shows to the OZones have won Best Production at previous festivals, with two of them winning at Mainstage, said Kuyek.
“In the past three years, the OZone has won best production at Mainstage twice – once for the Powerhouse produced play The Woman in Black in 2012, and the other time for Kelowna’s Fred Skeleton Theatre Company’s Red in 2014.”
Both winning directors of those plays, Matt Brown and Rob Mason-Brown, are returning to the OZones this year with new productions, while director Monty Hughes, who has previously won awards at both the OZones and Mainstage, is back with Powerhouse to direct The Diviners.
“The nice thing about festival is that you can stretch your actors and designers more and do more heavy content,” said Kuyek. “Usually, there is a little more depth to the plays, but to do the perfect comedy also takes a lot of skill.”
This year’s OZone festival is being adjudicated by Kathryn Shaw, the artistic director of Langara College’s Studio 58, a position she has held since 1985.
Also an actor and director of numerous plays, Shaw has been nominated for four and won two Jessie Richardson Awards for her directing work. In 2010, she was listed by The Vancouver Sun as one of B.C.’s 100 Most Influential Women. That same year, she received the Career Achievement Award from the Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance.
Shaw has served as a festival adjudicator for Mainstage in 1991, 2004 and 2014, as well as at numerous regional festivals.
“The whole purpose of having an adjudicator is to learn and grow in your skill set. You want your play to do well, but as a director, for me, it’s the best learning experience,” said Kuyek. “Taking the play to festival, going to the coffee critiques, listening to the adjudicator and the camaraderie are what it’s all about.”
This year’s OZone lineup at Powerhouse Theatre is as follows:
May 24, The Diviners, written by Jim Leonard Dr., directed by Monty Hughes, Powerhouse Theatre
May 25, Doubt, written by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Matt Brown, The Hub Arts Collective
May 26, State of Confusion, written by Mike Poirier, directed by Mike Poirier, Backstage Theatre
May 27, Our Country’s Good, written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, adapted from the Thomas Keneally novel The Playmaker, directed by Rob Mason-Brown, Fred Skeleton Theatre Company
May 28, Having Hope at Home, written by David S. Craig, directed by Kim Foreman-Rhindress, Kelowna Theatre Society
May 29, Pack of Lies, written by Hugh Whitemore, directed by Kim MacMillan, Shuswap Theatre
All plays start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets and information are available at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.