Monologue Competition Creates Opportunity For Local Actresses

Monday January 3rd, 2022

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Fresh off staging a play from one contest winner, a local theatre group is ready for a new tradition.

Ending the year with John Gavey’s Dead Bear, Post Productions is ready for 2022. While the show won their 2020 Windsor-Essex playwriting contest, the group is teaming up with another winner for something new. Launching this month in association with Windsor Feminist Theatre (WFT,) Post is holding the first annual Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition.

While her entry from 2019 was performed the following year, the writer has kept in touch since.

“[Winnie] has sent us a script every year for the Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest,” said Michael K. Potter, coach, coordinator and MC of the new competition. “Even when she doesn’t win, she comes very, very close because she’s such a unique and gifted writer. All of us at Post are Facebook friends with her, so we communicate now and then. Her pitch for this competition just arrived via email a few weeks ago out of nowhere. In it, she laid out her vision for this competition and we were immediately intrigued.”

Having published Big Mouth, a book of monologues for women, Winnie proposed using them to spotlight local actresses. Oddly enough, it was also a full circle moment.

Originating with a monologue for Rebecca Mickle (the lead in her contest winning play Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands,) Winnie was inspired to continue. Writing 100 pieces for the book and not wanting to leave it there, the writer then pitched the new contest to Post. A few days later, everyone met to figure out details and commit to the idea.

In some ways, this decision also showed how much trust the group has in Winnie’s abilities.

“I should mention that all of this happened before we’d actually read Big Mouth,” said Potter. “We just knew the monologues would be good. When [partner and contest judge] Fay Lynn and I finally sat down to read them to each other, we were floored by the sheer number of ideas, vivid characters and vastly different scenarios. [Winnie’s] mind works on such a different wavelength from mine and I’m thankful for that.”

Taking place on January 28 and 29, participants will perform monologues in front of attendees and four female judges at the Shadowbox Theatre (located at 103b – 1501 Howard Avenue.) Representing local companies, they include
Moya McAlister from Arts Collective Theatre, Kristen Siapas from University Players, Shana Thibert from Revolution Youth Theatre and Lynn from Post Productions.

Combined judge and audience scores for both performances will determine the winner. Aside from exposure and experience though, prizes include $250 for gold, $150 for silver and $50 for bronze.

Despite this element, organizers are most excited for what comes before however. Leading up to performances, those competing will receive one-on-one coaching from local theatre company actors and directors. Joey Ouellette from Purple Theatre Company, Eric Branget from Tall Tale Theatre Co. and Potter will help contestants refine their approaches before the big event.

Even with these aspects, the contest didn’t change much from the original pitch.

“We did a sort of brainstorm and then Post assembled and organized all the ideas into the contest format,” said Winnie. “They’re a pleasure to work with and it evolved quite quickly and smoothly. I still can’t believe it’s going to happen.”

Collaborating locally, the competition gave Post a chance to try something new. Wanting to include outside judges, they were hoping to have at least five theatre companies represented. From there, Winnie suggested a panel of women and Post was on board.

Although WFT’s Patricia Fell had to withdraw, response was still unanimous.

“We all know there’s no shortage of capable women in the local theatre industry,” said Potter. “To my delight, each woman we approached said yes. [McAlister,] [Thibert] and [Siapas] are leading lights in our theatre scene, people we respect, admire and like to be around. Of course Post’s own [Lynn] is the fourth judge. She’s pretty great too.”

Often used in auditions, monologues give a sense of someone’s range and how well they can capture an audience. In film, examples include Robin Williams’ speech to Matt Damon on the park bench in Good Will Hunting and Mo’Nique’s breakdown at the end of Precious. As for Winnie’s monologues, they’re generally between three-to-five minutes. Although that may seem short to some, each one has emotion, character, drama, humour, suspense and more.

With 100 choices, it also gives actresses a wide range to perform from.

“The monologues are rooted in my personal experiences and dreams and I tried to make them as interesting as possible,” said Winnie. “A lot of them have twists or fantastical elements folded into them.”

Beyond coaching, it’s what has Potter excited for the contest.

“I’m excited to see which monologues contestants choose, how they interpret them, make them their own and how the audience responds to them,” he said. “All of that is exciting for me.”

Winnie agrees, hoping it gives participants some good experience along the way.

“I’m most interested to see the actors perform them,” she said. “From the way it’s organized, I hope performers will benefit at every step — in picking their monologues they’ll have to understand themselves a bit, what they’re capable of, what they’re willing to do and how much they want to grow.  Hopefully as they are coached they will dismiss their blocks and grow closer to the reality of themselves. In performance it’s just them and the audience — it’s a real moment of truth. And one of the things I love about this contest is that they get a second chance at it the next night,- which means a potential to grow, to explore or just enjoy the fruits of their labour.”

Aside from helping local actresses, Post and Winnie hope the competition shows others what’s possible after winning the playwriting contest. Still collaborating three years later, the group has continued working with others who came in first place: Ouellette has taken on several roles on and off stage, along with Alex Monk who performed in No Exit and is stage managing their production of Three Tall Women in February. Adding to that, the latter is developing a series of improv events and workshops. After winning with his first play, Gavey is also developing future projects.

Still, Post and Winnie have some specific things they want to achieve with the new competition.

“We have four goals for this competition,” said Potter. “To give Windsor-Essex actresses an opportunity to showcase their talents, to create a fun and engaging experience for audiences, to promote the work of a gifted local writer and build community among local theatre companies. For Post Productions, it’s important to continually support local artists. This competition is an opportunity to do just that.”

Registration instructions are on Post Productions’ website or facebook event page. Winnie’s Big Mouth can also be purchased on Amazon. While the deadline to apply is January 10, the group is hoping for 10-15 competitors in total. Capping entries at 15 for shorter performance nights, participants will be selected on a first-come first-serve basis.

Whatever the turnout, it’s all to build up local theatre for women and the community alike.

“It seems that there aren’t a lot of exciting monologues out there for women,” said Winnie. “Hopefully women will take this chance to learn, grow and perform, making them more confident and increasing their skill set. And they’ll be seen. And if they feel they can do anything, that’s the best! Theatre is a thing that constantly needs to be built to stay relevant and alive. The more contributors there are, the better our local theatre scene will be.”

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