BY WENDY ELLIOTT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Two Planks and a Passion Theatre company is kicking off its 20th anniversary season with two awards, a gala fundraising event and the world premiere of Rick Chafe’s Beowulf.
The 12th annual Merritt Awards resulted in two wins for Two Planks and a Passion Theatre of Canning. The ceremony last week resulted in a lead actor award for Graham Percy, who played John Proctor in The Crucible last summer. The best supporting actor award went to John Beale for his portrayal of John Hale.
"We're obviously very happy that Graham and John won awards," says artistic director Ken Schwartz. "They were well-deserved. It's nice that people remember the show, because theatre is such an ephemeral thing."
The Canning company, founded in 1992 by Schwartz and Chris O’Neill, is best known for its Theatre Off The Grid series at the Ross Creek Centre, currently in its fifth season. Dedicated to both the creation of new Canadian theatre and re-interpretations of classic works, Two Planks has enjoyed a creative renaissance as it transformed from a national touring company to a producer of site-specific outdoor work at Ross Creek, as the permanent theatre in residence.
“Our Theatre off the Grid series has been an incredible journey for us. Given the remote location of our venue, it can only be described as our ‘Field of Dreams’ transformation: through creating something truly special, the audience came.”
Producing large-scale epic works like Allen Cole’s Rockbound, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Rick Chafe’s The Odyssey and Ami McKay’s Jerome: The Historical Spectacle has established Ross Creek as the premiere summer theatre experience in Nova Scotia. Two Planks has been nominated for 27 Merritt Awards for accomplishment in professional theatre in Nova Scotia since 2008, winning outstanding production three years in a row along, with nine other awards.
“It’s a very special marriage of nature and the imagination that is characteristic of our vision,” says Schwartz. “Given the fact that we produce our work without any electricity in natural light, there is a very special and intimate atmosphere at our performances.”
This summer, Two Planks will present Chafe’s Beowulf, a new adaptation of the epic work commissioned by the company. In development since 2008, Chafe’s adaptation has been created specifically with an outdoor presentation in mind.
“Our outdoor venues offer so many possibilities. While producing in nature does bring with it some restrictions, it also opens up huge possibilities in terms of depth, scale and the uncertainty that variable weather conditions on the Bay of Fundy presents.”
Beowulf has been on Schwartz's mind since Chafe's play, The Odyssey, closed in the summer of 2007. The Winnipeg's playwright's first draft was work-shopped last summer.
Schwartz calls Beowulf a 1,300-year-old love story.
"It's one of those classical tales, and a wonderful opportunity to play in the primal world of monsters. Beowulf will be very different from the Odyssey. It has a different take on heroism and fate."
Schwartz isn't ready to announce the cast members yet, but, "I can tell you that Mark Adam will be designing the soundscape."
Adam, a music professor at Acadia University, performed in the pit band for the Two Planks production of Rockbound.
Beowulf, featuring a cast of 12, will open at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts July 9 and run through August 6.
Two Planks is also holding a 20th anniversary gala, “The Speakeasy,” April 16 at Ross Creek. This 1920s-themed evening features a three-course meal, music, a casino and many other activities. Formal wear or 1920s-tyle is encouraged. A group of volunteers from Wolfville plan to transform the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts into a speakeasy.
The event is an important fundraiser for the organization, and the coming season, Schwartz says - and should be fun.
“What better way to celebrate our 20th than to look back at the 20s?”
Seating is limited. A partial tax receipt will be issued to all purchasers. Door opens at 6 p.m. Dinner is served at 7 p.m. A shuttle bus is available from Wolfville. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-3073 to reserve. Tickets are $75 each; a table of eight is $550.