The Port Alberni Portal Players came away with a number of awards from the North Island Zone Drama Festival last weekend.
The festival, which took place in Nanaimo, featured five shows from Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Courtenay and Campbell River competing for the top spot in the North Island Zone. The ECHO Players of Qualicum Beach were named the Best Production winners, and will now proceed to the annual Provincial Mainstage Theatre Festival in July.
The Portal Players were named runner up for their production of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged).
“We’re very proud of everyone,” said producer Brent Ronning. “We were well-recognized.”
Local talent Elliot Drew was named Best Male Lead Actor, while new addition Mitch Cote received the Best Newcomer Award. This is Drew’s third time winning Best Lead at the festival.
“His experience and his comedic skills and his acting skills are always very appreciated,” said Ronning. “He gives 150 percent all the time.”
Cote, a new addition to the Portal Players team, was a “huge benefit” to the production, added Ronning.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) is a unique performance, in that it only features three actors playing a variety of roles. The relationship between Drew, Cote and fellow player Chris Arthurs was key to the production, said Ronning.
“It’s so critical to trust,” he said. “The way they act together is so special.”
Long-time Portal Players volunteer Diena Tyne also came away with an award for Best Lighting Design. She is the first woman in the North Island Zone to receive that honour.
“It’s really exciting to see her recognized for the skill that she has,” said Ronning.
Tyne was honoured by the club last year when she received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Portal Players. Tyne has a “long history” of volunteerism with the club, and has been a key part of the society switching over to LED lighting for productions.
Lighting design, said Ronning, is an art. “If you notice it, it’s because it’s badly done,” he laughed.
“It’s critical to the look of the production. We’re really fortunate that we have someone like Diena in our club.”
The Portal Players performed in front of a “full house of audiences” in Nanaimo last weekend and were even invited to hold more performances, although they chose not to.
Unfortunately, Ronning said the production “wasn’t very well-attended” in Port Alberni this year. He hopes to draw a crowd in the fall, when the Portal Players will be kicking off next season with a musical production of Little Shop of Horrors. Auditions for the show will be held this week at the Capitol Theatre.
“Hopefully folks will see the quality of theatre that exists in their hometown, now that it is recognized outside of our city,” said Ronning.
In addition, Port Alberni will be hosting the Provincial Theatre Mainstage Festival next year and the year after. Some of the best theatre in the province will be taking the stage at the Capitol Theatre and at Alberni District Secondary School in July of 2019 and 2020.