Warner Stage Company Takes Top Honors in CT Community Theatre Festival

Warner Stage Company Takes Top Honors in CT Community Theatre Festival

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • OnStage Connecticut

The Connecticut Community Theatre Association (CCTA) held the CT Community Theater Festival on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 in the Warner Theatre’s Nancy Marine Studio Theatre in Torrington. After being off the festival scene for over 20 years until its return in 2014, Festival Chair Tori Richnavsky welcomed the audience back for their second community theater festival and was excited to participate in this two year cycle again. 

There were only two theater companies competing this year for the honor of representing the area in the New England Regional Festival next February, so the entire festival fit nicely into three hours.  Two adjudicators shared their notes at the conclusion of each of the one-act plays and those in attendance were allowed to listen in. I agreed with many (but not all) of their observations and criticisms that they were required to share within a ten minute time period. Strict guidelines concerning setup, length of performance, and strike had to be followed to ensure that all festivals are run fairly. 

The adjudicators once again included Joan Luther, who has been active in educational and community theater for over 40 years, and Paul Nelson, who has been adjudicating in New York for over 18 years. 

The festival opened with Phoenix Stage Company’s production of ‘Jellofish’  by Jim Henry. The story of four WWII veterans that have been playing a monthly poker game since 1945 was originally produced by the PSC when they were at their original 70-seat home in Naugatuck. Back in their roles in this poignant play were Ed Bassett as Billy, Timothy Cleary as Earl, Tim Phillips as Hooch, and Deborah Goodman as Judy. Mr. Bassett directed the piece with Lori Poulin as his assistant. Agnes Dann was the tech crew, Ms. Poulin was in charge of props, Laurie Phillips served as Production Stage Manager, and Mr. Bassett did the costume coordination and designed the perfect set. 

The second production was presented by the Warner Stage Company, a company with a production history of over 27 years. They presented a performance of  ‘Facing Backwards,’ written by George Kelly. Mr. Kelly, a playwright living in Concord NH, attended the festival to see his work come to life in this setting.  In the one-act play, two diehard Boston Red Sox fans sit in an empty bar after the team wins the 2004 World Series and come to terms with what has been won and what may have been lost. Tony Leone directed the cast that included Mark Malloy as Sam and Rob Girardin in the role of Bill. Stephen C. Houk designed and constructed an amazing set that was both set up and taken down in under ten minutes. The actors did their own costumes and Karla Woodworth added her talents as scenic artist. Of course, Sharon A. Wilcox was the production manager and sound/video designer. 

Certificates  were presented to Tori Richnavsky for putting together the festival and for serving as its chair. The adjudicators put their heads together during their break to decide the winners of the 2016 awards.

Outstanding Set Design - Stephen C. Houk Warner Stage Company
Outstanding Performance by an Actor - Tim Phillips
Outstanding Performance by an Actor - Rob Girardin
Road Runner Award (for quickest set-up and breakdown) - Phoenix Stage Company
The 10x10 Award (for best use of offstage space) - Warner Stage Company
Best Director - Tony Leone for ‘Facing Backwards’
Outstanding Production - ‘Facing Backwards’ by Warner Stage Company

The Warner Stage Company’s ‘Facing Backwards’ will advance to the New England regional competition next year. Congratulations to the Warner on another win at the state level. 

The CCTA board of directors includes Ed Bassett, Debbie Cryan, Lesley Budny,  Lori Poulin, Foster Evans Reese, Tori Richnavsky, Donna Storms, and Sharon A. Wilcox.

Photo by Warner Stage Company

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