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Vancouver Island's Portal Players win B.C. theatre championship

Port Alberni theatre group won 'Best Production' at Theatre BC's Mainstage Festival

Port Alberni's Portal Players have won the provincials of community theatre.

During their first-ever visit to Theatre BC's Mainstage Festival, the Portal Players Dramatic Society won the coveted title of "Best Production," along with a handful of other awards, for their performance of The Pillowman.

The awards were announced on Sunday, July 7 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre after theatre groups from across the province took turns performing on stage in front of adjudicator Joan MacLean. For the Portal Players, it was their first trip ever to the Mainstage Festival after winning the North Island Zone Festival back in May for the first time since the Portal Players' inception in 1979.

"It was a magical experience," said The Pillowman producer Liane Fitzpatrick.

In total, the Portal Players returned home from Mainstage with seven different awards, along with a special merit certificate for a "Great and Well Timed Puppet Show." Director Nicole Foster said she was "in utter shock" after the awards were announced.

"We had the best night of the show ever on our Mainstage night," said Foster. "We felt like we did well, but there were some other strong contenders. We couldn't have imagined we'd end up with seven awards."

Cydney Pedersen once again received the award for Best Actor in a Male Role for her portrayal of Katurian, a fiction writer being interrogated by two detectives. Fellow actor Scott Lemkay also once again received an award for Best Supporting Actor in a Male Role for his portrayal of Katurian's intellectually disabled brother, Michal. In addition, the Portal Players received nods for Best Props, Best Sound Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Director.

"I have an impeccable team," said Foster. "It was a great experience. The whole team was here, and a couple members of the community showed up to support us, as well — which I didn't expect."

The Pillowman, a dark comedy written by Martin McDonagh, was a "challenging" play for the Portal Players to tackle, with themes of child abuse, suicide and murder. But despite this, Foster says the reception to her interpretation of the show has been a positive one.

"It's not a play that reads well," she laughed. "But I've had a lot of people tell me that my production really changed their minds about the show. It's still one of my favourite plays."

"Most people were primed to dislike this play," added Fitzpatrick. "But Nicole made a couple of brilliant and unique choices in her production — using the puppets was one of those. There were a lot of people who were afraid to come to this show, but they ended up really enjoying it."

Prior to their trip to Chilliwack, the cast and crew put on two more productions of The Pillowman at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni to raise some funds for their trip. Fitzpatrick said the Portal Players more than met their fundraising goal.

"We had our biggest house ever on our last night," said Fitzpatrick. "The support was astounding. We're so grateful and thankful for the support we had during those two extra shows so we didn't have to break the bank."

Despite the support, Foster says this marks the end of The Pillowman in Port Alberni.

"We're putting The Pillowman to rest," Foster laughed. "I've been doing this show for nine months now, and I want to take a bit of time off to be with my four-month-old daughter."

Full list of awards received by the Portal Players Dramatic Society:

Special Merit Certificate: Lennon Chase, Ojas Cats, Bella Paragallo, Aurayliah Clark, Teresa Drew and Hannele Talkio

Best Props: Hannele Talkio

Best Sound Design: Carl Craig

Best Lighting Design: Diena Tyne

Best Supporting Actor in a Male Role: Scott Lemkay

Best Actor in a Male Role: Cydney Pedersen

Bill Elliot Best Director Award: Nicole Foster

Best Production: The Pillowman

Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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