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Festival of One Act Plays director wins best production award

More than 300 theatre patrons supported the Third Annual York Region Festival of One Act Plays over three nights at the historic Old Town Hall in Newmarket
Robert McNeely as Carl and Laurie Laing as Ida in a scene from The Next Ivan Sharansky in the York Region Festival of One Act Plays. Supplied photo/Greg King


Bruce Williamson of Aurora won the Ross Award for Best Production by a Director in the 2019 edition of the Third Annual York Region Festival of One Act Plays.

The award for Best Performance by an Actor was given to Fabian Levy-Hara of Richmond Hill in his performance in OUT, which also won for Best Emerging Playwright given out to Ron Fromstein of Toronto.

The Ross Award is named after the late Ross Bayley, who along with John Dowson, formed the Very Useful Theatre Company in 1993. Dowson headed up the Festival Artistic Committee (FAC) for this year’s three-day affair, put on by the Very Useful Theatre Company, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Newmarket.

Other nominees for the Ross were Patricia O’Hare, Joan Burrows and Jane Spence. Other nominees for Best Emerging Playwright were David Healey and Brooke Friendly (his first play). Other nominees for Best Performance by an Actor were Tim MacLean, Laurie Laing and Colin Murphy.

The Third Annual Festival of One Act Plays ran over three nights, wrapping up Saturday, Nov. 9 with the awards ceremony. It saw more than 300 theatre patrons over the three nights at the historic Old Town Hall in Newmarket.

It featured six plays, two one-act plays each night, and three World Premieres. All funds raised by this Festival go back into the community. 

John Dowson, head of FAC and past-president of the VUTC, said, “I want to express my sincere thanks to the members of the Festival Artistic Committee for their outstanding contribution to the one act play festival. It takes many people to put on the festival and they are all volunteers who gave of their time and money to produce these six plays.”

Dowson thanked stage manager Frank Johnston, who “kept the actors in line and organized the student stage hands.” He thanked the student stage hands, as well and also Doris Keppler, who designed the program, posters and posted the event on social media. “She is truly a gem.”

“Hats off to Rod Urquhart,” he continued, for his “illustrious” public relations, and also VUTC President Paul Bath, who raised the sponsorship money and “kept the festival going.” Dowson offered his “distinct thanks” to the members of the Festival Artistic Committee, five of whom cast and directed five of the six plays – and five of the six directors were female.

The FAC Committee Directors were:

  • Joan Burrows who dug in, cast and directed OUT and for her insights on live theatre and the festival were of overwhelming value; 

  • Kay Valentine whose devotion to theatre arts is renowned, who directed and cast a play again this year the Remains of Greatness;

  • Patricia O’Hare who had her theatrical directorial stage debut in the festival for directing The Next Ivan Sharansky

  • Joanna Kaufman for her yeoman work in directing the Theatre for Young Audiences play again this year; and,

  • Bruce Williamson who acted in Remains of Greatness and directed the play Under the Bright Sun and contributed incredible insights; 

  • In addition to their contributions to the Festival Artistic Committee the five committee members volunteered their time to cast, rehearse, build sets and direct five of the six plays in the festival;

  • A singular thank you to Jane Spence who cast and directed True Love and the precise Nature of Miracles, bringing the production to the festival from Toronto. 

That wraps up another year for the One Act Play Festival – stay tuned – for next year, many changes are planned, including putting the Festival on stage earlier in the year! And as Dowson concluded, “thanks so much to everyone who came out to see the wonderful plays. See you next year! And, we definitely ‘broke’ a leg’.”