The U of T Drama Festival once again took residence at Hart House earlier this month, providing audiences with four nights of theatre written, performed, and produced entirely by students.
Among the groups participating in the cross-campus festival was the UTM Drama Club, which performed on three of the festival’s four nights. The diverse one-act plays presented by UTMDC were Some Counterspace (written by Madeleine Brown and directed by Laura McCallum), Mrs. Mama’s House (written by Nathaniel Kinghan and directed by Larissa Crawley), and Pur.Gat.Ory (written by Nicholas Potter and directed by Megan O’Kelly). UTM was well represented, offering more productions in the festival than any other participating group.
Overseeing the festival was adjudicator Matt White. White is an instructor in the UTM/Sheridan theatre and drama studies program and also directed one of Hart House Theatre’s recent productions, Bone Cage. He happens to have been president of the Drama Coalition when he attended U of T. As adjudicator of the festival, his duties included conducting public and private adjudications at the end of each night to offer advice and encouragement to the participants. He was also in charge of handing out a variety of awards at the end of the festival’s final night.
UTMDC had a strong showing in this ceremony, taking home several awards. The Robertson Davies Playwriting Award was presented to Nicholas Potter for Pur.Gat.Ory, a complex exploration of four characters whose directionless lives converge on a subway platform. Potter’s last submission to the festival, Marianne, Are You Asleep?, had also made a splash, taking home awards for Best Production and Best Performance last year.
As it turns out, the streak of recognition for UTMDC’s performers continued this year. Alex Spyropoulos was presented with the Donald Sutherland Award for Best Performance, recognizing her portrayal of a mystical drifter in Pur.Gat.Ory. On the subject of the award (which was renamed this year to honour one of U of T’s most famous alumni, a former participant in the festival) and Spyropoulos’ performance, White had this to say: “I take great joy watching performers who can ‘jump off the cliff’ and give over to being wholly present and committed to every choice, seeing it through to the logical and sometimes surprising completion. Alex delivered a performance with such a grounded maturity, electric energy, and controlled focus. She unequivocally deserves to be the inaugural recipient of the Donald Sutherland Award for Best Performance.”
Other winners at this year’s festival included Trinity College Dramatic Society’s The Broadleaf Plays, which won the President’s Award for Best Production, UC Follies’ The Meeting with God: A Spectacle of the Fall, which won the Robert Gill Award for Best Direction, and UC Follies’ The Session, which took home the I.A.T.S.E. Award for Technical Achievement.
White also handed out a number of awards of merit, selected at his discretion, to celebrate talented participants who didn’t find recognition in the festival’s other award categories. White assigned personalized titles to each award of merit, such as the “Mr. Bean Award”, presented to the bold and broadly comedic Lucas Loizou for his supporting turn in Victoria College Drama Society’s They Just Didn’t See.
UTMDC’s Nathaniel Kinghan took home one of the six awards of merit, earning the “Script-I-Want-to-See-Fleshed-Out-at-Summerworks Award” for his play, Mrs. Mama’s House. “It was creatively affirming to hear Matt White commend my writing, suggest we enter this play in another festival, and offer invaluable insight as to how we can develop the piece further,” Kinghan told the Medium. “It serves as motivation to continue tweaking this project into something bigger.”
That sense of accomplishment and inspiration seems to be common among the members of UTMDC, but it didn’t come without hard work. Laura McCallum, the vice-president of UTMDC and director of Some Counterspace, told the Medium about the long process that led to the group’s participation in the festival: “The journey started in October with playwright submissions and since then, the executives and directors have been working tirelessly to produce some really innovative theatre.”
But the hard work paid off, and UTMDC is enjoying their moment in the broader U of T spotlight, according to McCallum. “Being a part of the U of T Drama Coalition yet being a satellite campus means our talent goes unseen for most of the school year,” she said. “It’s nice to be the dark horse of the competition and surprise the other groups.”
A remount of UTMDC’s shows will be held in the coming weeks. For more information on UTMDC, visit dramaclub.sa.utoronto.ca.