Whether you’re an established or an up-and coming artist, there’s nothing more important than having a space where you can fine tune and experiment with your work, and test the waters, in the company of your peers. For local theatre artists, the St. John’s Short Play Festival provides just that.
Established in the summer of 2016 after a simple post to the local “We Hearts the Arts” Facebook page by Jana Gillis, one of the festival’s founding members (followed by a meet up over coffee at Rocket Bakery with a number of interested artists), the St. John’s Short Play Festival has become an anticipated annual event that invites artists at every stage in their career to take risks and challenge themselves.
The inaugural event featured 11 one-act plays over two weeks put off by 75 performers, directors, producers, designers and technical crew. The festival has grown in size and scope over the years, with 2019 seeing over 1,500 theatre-goers visit the LSPU Hall to take in 26 productions over three weeks. Last year, the festival pivoted to a virtual format due to the pandemic, streaming 18 pre-recorded shows over four days via YouTube, bringing creatives and the community together in a new way.
“Despite the difficult times, we felt that people needed community more than ever…Taking our festival online allowed us to reach a broader audience from all over the world that we wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise,” says Jeremy Nolan, Outreach Director with St. John’s Shorts.
“We had productions and performers record from places other than Newfoundland and Labrador, such as New Brunswick, Ontario, and even India! The pre-recorded shows allowed theatre artists to find new and creative ways to highlight their work. Overall, it was thrilling to see our community put together such vibrant performances in a time when people weren’t able to go to the theatre.”
This year, Nolan says, organizers are thrilled to return to the LSPU Hall for the 6th annual festival. (COVID-19 protocols will be in place, including masking and socially distanced seating, and for those who feel more comfortable viewing from home, evening performances will also be live streamed online). The event kicked off on September 7 and will run until September 26, featuring 19 plays, as well as mentorship opportunities. New to this year, St. John’s Shorts will also host four workshops, focussing on different aspects of theatre-making, led by local theatre professionals.
From a puppet show and a political satire to comedy, improv, a psychological drama and everything in between, there’s something for everyone. In addition to giving established local artists the chance to hone their work, the festival also provides the opportunity for emerging playwrights and theatre artists to build connections in the community while they explore and develop their craft.
“The way the festival is designed is to give people a low-risk and low-cost way to get on stage and show off their talent. It is exciting because putting off a production is not always accessible to emerging artists. The festival is a safe space for all artists to grow and try out new work. Several short plays from the festival have gone on to become successful full-length productions,” Nolan says.
“The festival gets submissions and performances from community members from all experience levels. It gathers many established artists as audience members, so it is a great networking opportunity as well,” he adds.
“I recommend anyone who wishes to try out theatre or practice their skills to check out the festival this year.”
To purchase tickets to the St. John’s Short Play Festival, call the LSPU Hall at (709) 753-4531 ext 200, or click here.