Margaret Jenkins has directed the Echo Players' Vancouver Island One-act Play Festival since 2006. The 2015 festival is scheduled for Nov. 5-8 at Village Theatre.

Second act for one-act play festival

Echo Players resurrect Vancouver Island theatre festival Nov. 5-8 after cancellation in 2014

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said there are no second acts in American lives. But the Vancouver Island One-Act Theatre Festival is getting a second chance after being cancelled last fall for the first time in 10 years.

“I thought maybe it had run its course — that this was it,” said Margaret Jenkins, who has directed the festival since original founder Peter Bendz died after the inaugural event in 2005. “Last year some of our regular groups found it hard to get an extra play into their regular schedules. And the schools started out on strike, so we lost the kids.“

The 2015 festival resumes Nov. 5-8 at Village Theatre.

Six theatre groups from five communities — including Kwalicum Secondary School — will perform seven short plays over the course of the four days.

With community theatre groups strapped for both cash and time, there is no guarantee this festival signals a permanent return of the event, said Jenkins.

“We’d had entries the year before (2013) from the likes of Victoria and Nanaimo, and they were as keen as ever last year,” said Geoff Jenkins, Margaret’s husband and a festival coordinator. “But it proved hard to fit everyone into a calendar, date-wise.”

The Echo players, for example, will wrap up a four-week run of the sold-out comedy Calendar Girls Oct. 30, then begin work on their annual Christmas play, Merry Christmas, George Bailey!, set to run Dec. 17-31.

“It can be hard to slot in a one-act play,” said Doug Toombs, publicity volunteer.

“We’re building the set for the festival the day after we take down the Calendar Girls set,”

Geoff Jenkins added.

Victoria and Nanaimo will again miss the festival, made up of plays of less than an hour in length. But the host Echo Players will take the stage twice, and will be joined by Campbell River’s River City Players, Port Alberni’s Portal Players, the Courtenay Little Theater, the Gabriola Players Society and Kwalicum Secondary School, under a new director.

“The festival is dedicated to encouraging local talent,” said Toombs. “We’re especially trying to encourage young people through the schools.”

The festival will feature two show each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. The final play will run as a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, followed by the awards presentation.

The awards include Best Play, which is accompanied by a perpetual trophy presented by title sponsor Thrifty Foods, Best Director and Best Original Script. The rest of the awards — Best Female Actor in a Lead Role, Best Male Actor in a Lead Role, Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role — recognize individual performance.

“The focus is on the acting,” said Toombs. “These plays are meant to have minimal sets. We don’t want groups bringing in a bunch of furniture and such.”

The jurors tasked with selecting the winners in this year’s festival are Genie Award-winning actress Nicola Cavendish (The Grocer’s Wife, The Sleep Room) and director Robb Mowbray of Naniamo’s Theatre One, former winner of the Best Director Award at the North Island Zone Theatre Festival.

The pair offer each theatre group a brief, public critique immediately after each performance, and a more in-depth private critique at the end of each evening.

Work on establishing this year’s festival lineup, local sponsors and jurors began even as the 2014 event was being cancelled, said Jenkins.

“We work the phones and emails all year round,” said Geoff Jenkins. “Margaret works very hard on it. It’s her baby, and she doesn’t want to lose it.”

Tickets are $12 per evening for adults/$10 for seniors and students. A three-day pass is $30/$27, and a full four-day festival pass is $40/$36. Seat reservations and info are available at 250-752-3522 or info@echoplayers.ca.

Village Theatre is at 110 West 2nd. Ave. in Qualicum Beach.

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