Lights, camera, action: Local theater groups advance to state competition
Heather M. Goodwin/Staff Photo - The cast of 'Spring Awakening' from Grapevine's Performing Arts Center advanced to the state-level round of the AACTFest.
By Heather M. Goodwin, hgoodwin@email@example.com
Two local theater troupes will advance to the statewide portion of the Texas Nonprofit Theatres and compete against 10 amateur theater companies from around the state.
On Feb. 2, Grapevine's Ohlook Performing Arts Center and the Denton Community Theatre competed in the Quad II competition, part of the national AACTFest qualifications at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater.
Competitors in the AACTFEST have only 10 minutes to set up the stage, 60 minutes to present its performance and 10 minutes to remove the set. They are judged on all areas of their performance.
The Ohlook Performing Arts Center competed first with its rendition of "Spring Awakening," a 19th century play by German dramatist Frank Wedekind that was updated for a Broadway run in 2006. A rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik, with the book and lyrics written by Steven Sater, "Spring Awakening" follows a group of people who are discovering who they are from their adolescence to adulthood. It was banned in Germany because of its content, which includes abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and suicide.
"Wow. Talk about a coming of age story. I really enjoyed it," said John Sullivan, adjudicator for the AACTFest. "I applaud their use of unusual blocking, but think they need to be careful about losing their audiences' interest. As an ensemble piece, I thought it was done very well. I think they'll represent Quad II very well."
Following Grapevine's performance, the Denton Community Theatre presented "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" by Lanie Robertson. The show is set in a seedy Philadelphia bar and recreates Billie Holliday's final performance given in 1959, four months before her death.
"Part of the reason we chose to do this play is because it's not mainstream. We performed it last season in our Black Box, and the audience loved it," said Mike Barrow, DCT managing director. "We try to do edgier shows, and it turned out to be a wonderful performance."
Sullivan said it was an enjoyable production but a very difficult piece to do.
"It's difficult because it's a small piece of time they had to perform the last year of Billie Holliday's life," Sullivan said. "They had a very accomplished theater team doing the best they could. It's also very tough to recreate Billie Holliday's voice after her years of drug and alcohol abuse. It goes against the grain for a good singer to sing badly."
Both theater companies are advancing to the 2013 Texas AACTFest competition that will be held March 13-17 at the MCL Grand. A set of three judges will preside over the state competition.
"My advice not just to these two companies, but to every theater group, is to keep up the energy and focus," Sullivan said. "It's easy to be besieged by nerves, especially in competitive session."
AACTFest is conducted by American Association of Community Theatres and is designed to find the best work being done throughout the country by amateur theater groups. It was started in the 1960s as a means to identify the U.S. participant in the International Amateur Theatre Festival that was started by Monaco's Princess Grace, former movie actress Grace Kelly.
For information visit www.texastheatres.org or call 972-219-8446.
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