Vibrant Community Animation — The 2017 10×10 Showcase

Review by Michael Sobota, Photos by Marty Mascarin

The 10×10 Intensive is a multi-faceted, broad community theatre project that annually concludes with a showcase of short plays. The showcase features ten plays by ten playwrights that are ten minutes long. This year’s showcase took place on April 29-30 at the Finlandia Hall; I attended the gala premiere on Saturday night, April 29.

These are the ten plays that comprised the 2017 showcase:

GOLF LESSONS written by Jane Crossman, directed by Lynda Henshell. The play is a thin conceit about marital bantering on a golf course. In performance, Arlene Korhonen-King and Glen Paterson make the simplistic characters believable and director Henshelll guided them around the stage/golf course well.

BLUEJAYS IN THE BACKYARD AND OTHER LIFE LESSONS written by Meagan O’Reilly, directed by Justin O’Brien. Sheena Larson and John Welyki , a brother and sister who share a warm, intimate, yet casual conversation. Mom (Doris Quistberg) phones to provide a surprising twist in the end. O’Brien shaped fine, natural performances from this cast.

SCRABBLE written by Susan Rogers, directed by Clara Ivec. Four friends (Jessica Falcioni, Mike Hurlbert, Chris Jason, and Shannon Vancook) play the traditional board game, feinting each other’s moves and riffing off the last subject mentioned, and their internal moods. It is a tricky character piece to pull off, requiring assured, droll comic timing and focused awareness. In performance, this played unevenly. The characters sometimes played to us rather than listening to each other.

LITTLE ENDINGS written by Jordan Lehto, directed by Jim Hobson. Two sisters, (Andrea Jacobsen and Megan Dickson) have a conversation in a cloak room at a funeral. Mom (Millie Gormely) interrupts and is supportive. This is a sensitive, smartly written life and death scene, shaped with delicacy and focus by Hobson.

THE STRANGER written by Michael Lehto, directed by Alison Miecznikowski and Kim Hansen. A son (Steven Gothard) is visited by the ghost of his dead mother (Jessica McNabb) who implores him to help his sick, alcoholic father (Eric Laughton). He doesn’t. In performance, the play is thin and wandering and doesn’t drive strongly enough toward it’s powerfully-written ending.

A FAMILY STORY written by Taina Maki Chahal, directed by Charles Campbell. Finn grandparents (Annet Maurer and Martti Ahonen) struggle with accepting their transgender son (Brittany Fediurek). Crows and hummingbirds bookend this smartly written and ultimately touching family transition. Campbell might have paced the performances more quickly, but the ensemble was credible.

ISOBEL written by Calla Gigliotti Farmer, directed by Jessica Graham. A Scottish fairy tale that is, in actuality, a family history. Farmer’s script is choppy, at times formal, at times eerie, as were the performances by Kelsey Agnew, Sarah Ficek, and Jay Stapleton.

IVY BRAMBLE’S GUIDE TO FAMILY LIVING written by Amanda Doig, directed by Brandon Walker. A husband (Jordan Blaxill) struggles to ground his wife (Judy Roche) about their dead son (Gabby Carlin). And uncle (Peter Law) provides a forced resolution both in the script and in performance. The weak ending betrays the good work Blaxill and Carlin contributed earlier. Walker’s staging and focus seem uncertain.

SINGULARITY written by Roy Blomstrom, directed by Bryan MacLeod. Sometime into the future a man is being interviewed for a job. The twist in the script overthrows everything that transpires before it is revealed. MacLeod directs Richard Pepper, Keri Pidgen, and Tamara Rose with restrained naturalism and, perhaps, not enough satire.

THE MOOSE’S RANSOM written by Carole Sauve, directed by Maranda Dumas. Three moose hunters (Dennis Dubinsky, Gabe Ferrazo, and Mike Hinsperger, await a fourth. Ferrazo is a lawyer, helping Dubinski with his divorce. The fourth hunter arrives and is Dubinsky’s wife. Cerebral slapstick ensues. The moose escapes. Sauve has written a broad farce and Dumas shaped it with bright costumes mimicking some of the idiocy of guys hunting and guys attempting to get the better of women. This production received the Audience Choice popularity award.

This was the fifth anniversary year of 10×10. The internal team headed by artistic director Cathi Grandfield get so many things right. With a very smart branding and marketing campaign, designed by Jenni Grandfield, and a tight internal team as well as artistic collaborators, 10×10 has become a vibrant force on the live theatre scene in Thunder Bay. It is a model for community animation, welcoming beginning writers, directors, and actors. It allows them to discover what the joys and challenges of live theatre are. It encourages risks and supports failures. That’s how we learn – and “break our legs.” Bravo 10×10. Well done.