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Sarnia about to showcase very best in community theatre

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Cathy Dobson

Theatre lovers, listen up!

Sarnians have a rare opportunity to see the best that community theatre has to offer when Theatre Sarnia hosts the Western Ontario Drama League (WODL) Festival over March Break.

It’s been six years since the local community theatre group last hosted the festival, says chairman Jay Peckham.

“We bring it here because, frankly, we love theatre,” he said. “And because we can.”

Jay Peckham

That’s because Theatre Sarnia is one of the few community theatres with its own revenue-generating theatre.

Few other community groups own a facility like the 600-seat Imperial Theatre. It’s not only debt and mortgage-free, it’s been running in the black the past 20 years.

Western Ontario has about 30 community theatre groups. Each can submit a play annually to be considered for festival competition. Five are chosen by adjudicators who judge every aspect of the production.

Theatre Sarnia frequently brings home the hardware from the WODL Festival but, as host, won’t be competing.

“If you are hosting you try to avoid competing because of the perception that we would have an advantage in our own theatre,” explained Peckham.

But bringing the festival to Sarnia has many perks, he said.

“The festival experience is an incredible opportunity no matter who you are. Whenever I attend, I feel like I’ve learned and experienced something very positive.”

The competitive environment encourages the actors to “push the envelope,” Peckham said.

“You see pieces that are a bit more creative, where actors showcase their craft.”

Theatre groups staging their shows during the festival generally attract a smaller audience of about 100 people.

Most tend to be from within the theatre family – supporters and crew from the WODL membership.  Peckham said he hopes this year more members of the general public see the competitors, who are considered the top of their class.

As an added bonus, the adjudicators offer their opinions, good and bad, after each show. Anyone can stay to hear the praise and criticisms.

Workshops are also held throughout Festival week, including one on March 17 with John Hobbs discussing set building.



WHAT:  WODL Festival. March 12 – 16. 8 p.m.

Monday –  “Gloria’s Guy,” Guelph Little Theatre

Tuesday – “Venus in Fur,” Kitchener Waterloo Little Theatre

Wednesday – “The Dining Room,” Aylmer Community Theatre

Thursday – “On a First Name Basis,” Elmira Theatre Company

Friday – “Twelve Angry Men,” Paris Performer’s Theatre

WHERE: Imperial Theatre. Visit

TICKETS: $25 per show, or $110 for all five.

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