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Elmira plays host to WODL Minifest

Minifest features four different takes on the same play, and each performance costs just $5.

What do you get when you mix horse tranquilizers, an elopement, and your new mother-in-law? A recipe for disaster. Or if you’re acting in this year’s Elmira Theatre Company Minifest, you’ve got your play.

Minifest features four different takes on the same play, and each performance costs just $5.
Minifest features four different takes on the same play, and each performance costs just $5.

My Invisible Friend was written for Minifest by Sondra Learn, from the Burlington Theatre Group. The story follows a young couple (Nick and Valerie) home from their elopement, where the husband is terrified to meet his new bride’s mother, Dolly.

Four theatre companies, instead of the usual six, will showcase their interpretation of the play this weekend at the ETC facility on Howard Avenue. One performs on Friday night, while the rest perform on Saturday.

ETC’s Bev Dietrich, chairperson of the Western Ontario Drama League’s Minifest, said each set of actors will have their own spin on the drama. They’ll all use the same set provided for them, but can bring any costumes, and sound effects or music they like.

The play takes place in a manor home where the nervous husband turns to some pharmaceutical assistance to calm himself, a decision that leads to some rather interesting conversations.

“He takes a tranquilizer to calm his nerves, then someone else gives him one,” Dietrich said. “His friend from his childhood comes back. It could be anything or anybody.”

As he speaks to an old friend – the titular invisible one – the people around Nick think he’s speaking to them instead of the person they obviously can’t see. Beyond Nick’s fear of his yet-to-be-met mother-in-law Dolly, there’s the added complication of the presence of Ken, Nick’s law partner, and his very pregnant wife Katie, who’s about to go into labour with twins. Oh, and they’re all trapped in the house by a snowstorm.

Comedy ensues.

In presenting the play, the actors will then get advice from a workshop leader, who will make suggestions and let them redo scenes on stage.

“The audience gets to watch them too. Some people are just there to watch and learn,” Dietrich explained of the format.

The theatre fits 152 people, and so far she said 88 tickets have been purchased.

“It would be great for local people to come and see the play,” she said. “It’s only $5 a show. It’s cheap, cheap, cheap.”

The theatre groups found out they were selected to participate in the festival on May 1. It used to be that the groups were chosen based on who has the least experience to help encourage new groups to come out. Now there are fewer new groups to choose from, so it will likely be a range of familiar faces from the drama league, including Royal City Musical Productions from Guelph.

“My hope is always that someone comes away with a nugget of information and that everyone has fun. It’s good, plain old fun,” she said.

“Elmira’s up and raring to go. Bring it on.”

The weekend performances of My Invisible Friend are non-competitive and goofy prizes are given out on the Saturday night.

Tickets are available at the door at the Elmira Theatre Company venue, 76 Howard Ave., Elmira. More information can be found online at www.elmiratheatre.com. As well, details about the Minifest are available at the Western Ontario Drama League website, www.wodl.on.ca.

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