New works for the theatre will continue to challenge and entertain Manx audiences with the announcement that TheatreFest16 is to be held over the weekend of September 23 to 25 and will take as its theme 'journeys'.
The festival builds on the success of TheatreFest15, a legacy outcome from Island of Culture 2014 and the first of a five-year project sponsored by the Isle of Man Arts Council, whose vice-chairman Michael Lees explained: 'TheatreFest15 was a pioneering vehicle for the theatre, for artists and for audiences. We have all learned from the experience which, at its heart, was about broadening the reach and appeal of theatre in its very widest sense.
'TheatreFest16 will continue that momentum of discovery and it's against that background that we have chosen journeys for the theme for the 2016 programme which, in the main, will follow last year's format but with one significant difference. This year's works will not be performed at the Gaiety Theatre but at the Studio Theatre in Ballakermeen High School.
'We're enormously grateful to the Gaiety Theatre team for their outstanding support and cooperation last year in a project which was, for all of us, uncharted territory. What has emerged is that as a platform for trialling new work, TheatreFest attracts audience sizes better suited to a smaller, more intimate venue and it is for this reason that we are delighted that Ballakermeen High School has made its Studio Theatre available.'
The TheatreFest 16 programme begins on Friday September 23 with the debut performance of the winning slavery-themed play from TheatreFest15's play-writing competition, Morning Star by Steve Harper.
On winning the competition Mr Harper, who is from Norfolk, said: 'I'm absolutely delighted to have won. Slavery isn't an easy subject to write about, so I decided to concentrate on the characters involved with the trade.' Adjudicator was Colin Dolley, a respected figure in the Guild of Drama Adjudicators, who, in his appraisal of the play, which is set in 1848 Bristol, spoke of the 'intriguing, vibrant script', 'sharp dialogue' and 'compelling narrative'.
Saturday September 24 will see a double bill. First the debut of 'Bohème Retold' a new review style musical inspired by Puccini's opera La Bohème but re-mastered with a contemporary take from the women's point of view, re-imagining the relationship between the two leading female characters, Mimi and Musetta. Written by local composer David Holland, together with Kristene Sutcliffe and Lisa Kreisky of Stage Door Entertainment who are also directing the piece, the work offers opportunities for four female cast members, two playing ages between 10 and 12, and two between 16 and 18.
The second piece will be a journeys-themed devised work written by UK theatre director John Young and directed by Kristene Sutcliffe and Lisa Kreisky of Stage Door Entertainment.
The festival concludes on Sunday September 24 with a promenade performance of Morning Star in the North Quay area of Douglas.
Mr Lees continued: 'TheatreFest is about unlocking opportunities for people with little or no previous acting experience to perform before a live audience, and also discovering new writing talent through the TheatreFest New Work Award play-writing competition. Last year's winner, Steve Harper, wrote a compelling piece with Morning Star and this year we are running the competition again. The theme is "journeys" and the competition is open to writers everywhere, not just in the Isle of Man. Once again celebrated adjudicator Collin Dolley will judge the entries, which close on December 31, 2016.'
Supplementing the TheatreFest16 weekend will be a number of theatre workshops. John Young will be working in schools while Danielle Bridson, from the Arts Hub and who recently played Deloris Van Cartier in the Douglas Choral Union production of Sister Act will be holding two 'Journey into Theatre'-themed workshops on Sunday September 18, sponsored by the Isle of Man Arts Council: one for three to seven-year-olds, the other for eight to 12-year-olds. Ms Bridson said: 'The Arts Hub is delighted to be offering two "Journey into Theatre" workshops as part of TheatreFest16. Our performing arts workshops will offer students the opportunity to explore strange lands beyond their wildest imaginations. We will use singing, dance, drama and craft activities to tell the story of Buzz, a young man who travels into space to explore new worlds and the aliens that live there.'
Mr Lees concluded: 'Central to aims of TheatreFest is encouraging people - artists and audiences - to embrace change and challenge in the theatre. And for those who did not take part last year, we would urge them to consider putting themselves forward again as there will always be new opportunities over the five-year life of the TheatreFest project and new destinations in the TheatreFest journey.'
Auditions for the four female cast members of Bohème Retold will be held at St Matthews Church on the North Quay in Douglas, on Sunday May 22. To find out more email Lisa Kreisky and Kristene Sutcliffe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register interest to be cast in the devised work by John Young, call Lisa Kreisky, 211818 or email email@example.com.
(Morning Star is already cast and uses local actors).
Danielle Bridson's Journey into Theatre workshops will have spaces for a maximum of 25 per session. Sessions are three hours and priced £10. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org.