By Joe Szek
Each year, I applaud the energy Driftwood’s Artistic Director Jeremy Smith still has for the live theatrical company he created over twenty years ago. I asked him recently how he has still maintained his creative momentum after twenty plus years. For Jeremy great energy can be found in change and, when you primarily work out doors in the summer, things are always different. Jeremy re-iterated that he has had the good fortune to work with many artists over these twenty plus years, but it is his core group of members with whom he has worked from the company’s inception who have helped to keep both he and Driftwood grounded.
Friday March 10, 2017 marked the annual presentation of Trafalgar 24, a sold out and well attended fundraising event in support of Driftwood Theatre Group. If the talent this night is any indication of these future-performing artists, Driftwood will continue to leave an indelible footprint on Canadian theatre. On this blustery and bitterly cold winter’s night, twenty-four artists within a span of twenty four hours wrote, rehearsed and performed six site-specific ten minute scripts played out in various locales in Whitby’s Trafalgar Castle School known formerly as the Ontario Ladies’ College.
Friday’s enthusiastic audience members also played a crucial role as they selected one of these plays to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre. Driftwood also announced that OTHELLO is the Summer 2017 Bard’s Bus Tour throughout the province. Jeremy describes how OTHELLO is one of Shakespeare’s penultimate tragedies whose setting for this summer’s production is 1974 when Canadian peacekeepers are caught in a life and death struggle between opposing forces on the small island of Cyprus.
On a personal note, a few of these six ten-minute scripts engaged my interest while a couple of them required further revision and re-writing. The challenge for me was to listen to the text itself and not to focus on the performances of the actors, which is something each of us does automatically. My personal favourite of the evening was MONSTERS MATTER by Warren Bain and Matt Bernard, a highly literate comedy of an eager lawyer who agrees to represent the Bride of Frankenstein in her divorce case. Other scripts that showed potential promise were RESURRECT by Jesse LaVercombe, the story of Gideon who visits his priest the night before Easter Sunday with a special request. I REMEMBER THE MAZES is a script that takes place in the mind of someone living with anxiety; when both sides of the brain are having “a day”. Audience members this night selected RESURRECT by Jesse LaVercombe as the emerging playwright who will take part in a residency which coincides with this summer’s Bard’s Bus Tour.
It was also appropriate to see a number of members from other local community based theatre groups participating at Trafalgar 24 either as a volunteer that evening or as a participating audience member. It is important that each of us takes an opportunity to support and to watch the art and craft of live performance as audience members. Why? This is the very art of community building among all artists in our community.
Once again, Jeremy believes that exciting things are in store for Driftwood audiences in the next three to five years. In 2019, Driftwood will celebrate its 25th season and the company has been taking the time to consider what is important to them, and what legacy they hope to leave for theatre in Ontario. Driftwood will become even more accessible for all people - especially in communities with little or no access to professional theatre. Finally, Driftwood hopes that its’ work will diversify to include productions of new plays started here at Trafalgar 24. These are lofty goals, but Driftwood holds no hesitation to continue reaching out further to communities.
Visit www.driftwoodtheatre.com for more information about this company whom retired Toronto Star writer Richard Ouzounian called “Shakespeare on a shoestring, but the shoestring has a lot of class.” Make it a point to see one of the stops this summer of the Bard’s Bus Tour of Shakespeare’s OTHELLO.