And the winner of this year’s Fred Townsend Memorial Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance is … the Elmira Theatre Company for From Here to Insanity.
Last week, ETC was recognized for its February production of Caroline Russell-King’s play about a psychiatrist’s ex-wife who finds herself playing host to three patients from the nearby mental hospital when it burns down.
Directed by Ken Harkes, the local production was among a shortlist of four finalists at the Western Ontario Drama League’s annual meeting in Woodstock.
“We feel honoured and we’re very excited because it is the award to win,” said the play’s producer, Bev Dietrich.
WODL consists of some 32 community theatre groups with a combined membership of over 900 dedicated individuals. Each group in the region has the opportunity to select a play from its season line-up, which is then judged by a professional adjudicator who gives his or her assessment of the show.
ETC’s submission this year was an “out of festival” entry. Sixteen other groups were in this category. The award will be accepted by the company at the WODL annual drama festival banquet on Mar. 21 in Woodstock.
Recognizing the joint efforts of the entire cast and crew – from actors to the team members working on lighting, costumes, and set design – the Fred Townsend Memorial Award is one of the most prestigious accolades bestowed at the annual meeting, said Dietrich.
“The whole group won the award.”
Featuring four actors, From Here to Insanity was particularly challenging, said Dietrich, because of the multiplicity of some of its characters: two took on multiple personalities and another communicated through sound effects. Rich in opportunities, as actors jumped from one personality to another, the play also offered them plenty of chances for both humour and empathy.
“It was lots of fun. I thought the actors did a fabulous job with it – it was a real challenge for the actors developing the different personalities,” said Dietrich.
In total, the production, which ran from Feb. 5-14, included a cast and crew of 43 and an additional 30 people helping out as ushers, bartenders and parking lot attendants.
While obviously pleased with the win, Dietrich noted that the production company will have no time to bask in the limelight as it is already working on its next production, The Fire Inside, about volunteer firefighters, by Baden playwright Teresa Brown.
“It’s like a fine dance: as one play is ending the next play has already had their audition at one point during the other play and they’re ready to go the very next day; so, we take down the set that same night and usually that night or the next morning somebody’s in already taping out the next set on the floor – it’s not being built yet, but it’s taped out so that the next group can start.”