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PlaySmelter Festival staging full theatre productions for first time

Check out two original works by local playwrights at May 9-13 festival

For the first time in its five-year history, PlaySmelter, Sudbury's new work theatre festival, will feature two full productions.

You're invited to take in these new works by local playwrights next week: "Blind Nickel Pig" by Lara Bradley and Receiver of Wreck by Matthew Heiti.

The May 9-13 festival, run by Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, also features first readings of three new scripts: Pakistani Sugar by Brigitte Gall, Debwewin (Truth) by Sarah Gartshore and The Sandcastle by Eli Chilton.

Aspiring theatre producers will also be mentored on how to build theatre productions from the ground up during the festival.

Bradley said she's excited her play is finally being staged, as she first wrote it in 2011 as part of Playwrights' Junction, a Sudbury Theatre Centre program for aspiring playwrights.

A local theatre company, Encore Theatre, was going to stage "Blind Nickel Pig" in 2014 — and even received an Ontario Arts Council Grant to do it — but for reasons outside her control, these plans ended up falling through.

While she admits she was “pretty bummed” about the situation, it ended up being for the best.

“I'm glad I had this time, because (the play) has changed,” Bradley said. “It's gotten tighter for sure … Since going into rehearsals, I've cut one scene and trimmed the dialogue a bit.” 

"Blind Nickel Pig" focuses on a cast of characters hanging around a blind pig in Sudbury back in 1909.

In case you don't know what a blind pig is, they were establishments that existed in this area in the early 20th century that illegally sold alcoholic beverages, and were habitually raided by police.

A former local reporter who now works in communications, Bradley was doing some research on Sudbury's history when she came across the term.

"Blind Nickel Pig" is directed by Heiti, who's been working with Bradley on the play since the beginning, as he ran Playwrights' Junction for years.

“It's really cool to see another playwright get a mainstage show in this town, because it's a long time coming,” said Heiti, who's also artistic associate with Pat the Dog.

“I think there's a lot of writers you'll see come forward in the next few years. This is really encouraging that the work we've done over the last seven years with local playwrights is starting to pay off for them.”

Heiti's own play, Receiver of Wreck, was also recently staged by Tottering Biped Theatre in Burlington.

It's inspired by mysterious severed human feet that keep washing up on the coast of British Columbia (there's been 16 to date).

There's two main characters: one who lives in BC and the other in Newfoundland. Both lose their feet (which then end up in the ocean) in horrible accidents at the same moment.

They start driving across Canada “in search of this lost piece of themselves,” coincidentally meeting up in the country's centre. Their feet also begin their own journey towards each other in the ocean.

“Weird, eh?” Heiti said, laughing.

The play's genesis was a 20-minute piece he wrote in 2010 (the play's now 85 minutes long) for a Pat the Dog playwriting competition. Most of it was written on a bus ride to Halifax.

“It's a full circle for me and my relationship with (Pat the Dog Theatre Creation), because it's the first piece we collaborated on,” Heiti said. “It's been seven years in the making.”

If you're interested in checking out the plays, "Blind Nickel Pig" runs May 9, 11 and 13 and "Receiver of Wreck" runs May 10 and 12 at the Ukrainian National Federation at 130 Frood Rd. Curtain time for all shows is 8 p.m.

Visit this website for more information about PlaySmelter.


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Heidi Ulrichsen

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