Culture  A tough act to follow

McGill festival delivers the best of student-written plays

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel during study season, and it comes in the form of student-run theatre. Player’s Theatre presents their 11th annual McGill Drama Festival (MDF) putting on five productions every night of the week from March 24 until April 4. This year, MDF received over 20 play submissions, giving a reading panel a difficult task in choosing their top five. In January, both directors and actors auditioned to get their hands on the plays, with three short months to put on a spectacular show, a feat they pulled off with success.

MDF’s colourful theatre community attracts engineering students and English lit majors alike. Being a student-led production without the interference of faculty members, the richness of the festival comes partly from the diversity of the students involved, from all departments and all years. Three out of the five directors are first-year students, bringing fresh talent and dynamism to the group.

Ekphrasis, a play written by Dominic Man-Bertrand and directed by Pat Trinh, took the stage Thursday, March 26 and plays again this Tuesday and Thursday. The comedy chronicles an evening of bickering and self-discovery: two odd couples attend a modern art show. Each character is an island and has a completely different personality from the others; the show contrasts an obnoxious yet garishly sexy woman with an up-tight and prudish older woman.

The characters’ problems range from existential crises to petty couple-fights. Yet they experience a hard fall off of their high horses when, during the art show, a bucket of water is splashed onto the characters, as if saying: “Get over yourself!” Everyone needs a splash of water from time to time.

Also performing Thursday 26 was Four Quiet Mornings, a touching drama written by Mike Lake and directed by Joel Burford, which stresses how communication can be a pain sometimes. An unlikely friendship develops between an amnesiac and a mute while the audience is unaware of his condition – unless you read the blurb on the festival’s web site – which keeps the viewers guessing and eager to see how the story develops.

Since the characters must communicate through writings on a notepad and an awkward chalkboard around the girl’s neck, their facial expressions are key. Loving eye contact and sweet smiles and giggles tell most of the story in ways that words usually cannot. It’s difficult not to be touched by their bittersweet relationship, as was reflected in the audience’s facial reactions. The show goes on this Wednesday and Friday.

The effort put into organizing and coordinating MDF was impressive. Together, Arts Undergradue Theatre Society and mcgillSTAGE have brought McGill’s theatre community an enjoyable festival. Despite the challenges of sharing resources, getting kicked out of SSMU basement, and the huge time commitment involved, MDF pulled it off. Being thrown out of your comfort zone and facing risks is what “creates good theatre,” explains MDF coordinator Meaghan Davis. Director Danielle Boudreau agrees that the “challenges and imperfect spaces force you to be creative and [get] everyone involved.” Remarkably so, MDF made students jump over high hurdles, but at the same time it helped them explore and develop their theatre community, and gave them the opportunity to share these accomplishments with the rest of us.