Community theatre is just as good as professional theatre, just without the price tag.
That’s the message embedded in Theatre BC’s Okanagan Zone Festival (Ozone), which takes Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre stage May 19-25, said administrator Richard Kerton.
“Community theatre companies do shows at the same level as the professionals, but they do it because they love it,” Kerton said. “It’s not something performed to kids in a high school. We’ve moved past that era.”
The Ozone, one of Theatre BC’s 10 zones, sees seven theatre companies from Princeton to Kamloops perform nightly in Vernon for a chance at claiming Best Production.
Adjudicated by professional dramaturge Andrew McIlroy, the winner of Best Production will then compete against other zone winners in Theatre BC’s provincial Mainstage festival in Vernon June 29 to July 6.
“The object is to be the best,” Kerton laughed. “The Okanagan has strong theatre companies. There’s a lot of community theatre in this zone and it builds stronger support. Some are doing really good work but it’s tough for them to get to that point.”
Ozone festivities kick off with Vernon’s own Powerhouse Theatre and their performance of Calendar Girls.
“I know Calendar Girls is doing really well,” Kerton said of the performance that runs until May 12.
Kelowna’s Fred Skeleton brings The Drowning Girls May 20, followed by KCTS Kelowna Theatre Society’s The Fighting Season May 21, Salmon Arm’s Shuswap Theatre with Perfect Pie May 22, Kamloops Players Society’s two one-acts Whisper into my Good Ear and Mrs. Dally has a Lover May 23, Oliver’s South Okanagan Amateur Players with Outside Mullingar May 24 and Princeton’s Crimson Tine Players with A Fine Monster You Are May 25.
Following the nightly performances, McIlroy will lead a coffee critique where ticket holders and theatre companies have the opportunity to come together and gain professional insight. Because for Kerton, that’s truly what Ozone is about.
“This is one way of bringing everyone together to get that advice, and it builds collaborative efforts,” Kerton said. “I’ve been doing this a long time so I’m passionate about it.”
Coffee critiques also allow the audience to participate and learn the backbones of what goes into putting a production on stage.
At the end of the week, McIlroy will announce the winners as the theatre companies and audience enjoy dinner during the Ozone Awards Banquet at the Schubert Centre May 26.
And, after the winner is announced, it will be time to gear up for Mainstage, which will be in Vernon for the second consecutive year.
“It’s a bit of a challenge because doing it back to back takes up a lot of resources,” Kerton said of Mainstage.
Next year, the festival will be held in Port Alberni.
“It moves around to highlight that community and bring to the forefront the aspects of community theatre and the gems about that theatre,” Kerton said.
Tickets to Ozone Festival events are $25 single show, $69 three day pass, $110 five day pass or $140 seven-day pass for all events excluding the banquet, for which tickets are $40. For showtimes and to purchase tickets, contact the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.