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Vancouver Island’s Portal Players Win BC Theatre Championship

Vancouver Island’s Portal Players Win BC Theatre Championship
Vancouver Island’s Portal Players Win BC Theatre Championship

Port Alberni theatre group won ‘Best Production’ at Theatre BC’s Mainstage Festival

Port Alberni’s Portal Players have won the provincial award for local theatre.

During their first-ever visit to Theatre BC’s Mainstage Festival, the Portal Players Dramatic Society won the coveted title of “Best Production,” along with a handful of other awards, for their performance of The Pillow Man.

The awards were announced on Sunday, July 7, at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre after theatre groups from across the province took turns performing on stage for judge Joan MacLean. For the Portal Players, it was their first-ever trip to the Mainstage Festival after winning the North Island Zone Festival in May for the first time since the Portal Players formed in 1979.

“It was a magical experience,” said The Pillow Man producer Liane Fitzpatrick.

In total, the Portal Players returned home from the main stage with seven different awards, along with a special certificate for a “wonderful and well-timed puppet show.” Director Nicole Foster said she was “completely shocked” after the awards were announced.

“We had the best night of the show ever on our Mainstage night,” Foster said. “We felt like we did well, but there were a few other strong contenders. We couldn’t have imagined that we would end up with seven awards.”

Cydney Pedersen once again took home the award for Best Actor in a Male Role for her portrayal of Katurian, a fiction writer who is interrogated by two detectives. Fellow actor Scott Lemkay also took home another award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Katurian’s mentally challenged brother, Michal. Additionally, the Portal Players received nominations for Best Props, Best Sound Design, Best Lighting Design, and Best Director.

“I have an impeccable team,” Foster said. “It was an amazing experience. The whole team was here and some of the community came out to support us — which I didn’t expect.”

The Pillow Mana black comedy written by Martin McDonagh, was a “challenging” piece for the Portal Players to tackle, with themes of child abuse, suicide and murder. But despite this, Foster says reception to her interpretation of the show has been positive.

“It’s not a play that reads well,” she laughed. “But a lot of people have told me that my production really changed their opinion of the show. It’s still one of my favorite plays.”

“Most people were prepared not to like this piece,” Fitzpatrick added. “But Nicole made some brilliant and unique choices in her production — the use of puppets was one of them. There were a lot of people who were afraid to come to this show, but they ended up really liking it.”

Before their trip to Chilliwack, the cast and crew performed two more productions of The Pillow Man at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni to raise some money for their trip. Fitzpatrick said the Portal Players exceeded their fundraising goal.

“We had our biggest house ever on our last night,” Fitzpatrick said. “The support was amazing. We’re so grateful and thankful for the support we had on those two extra shows, so we didn’t have to break the bank.”

Despite the support, Foster says this marks the end of The Pillow Man in Port Alberni.

“We put The Pillow Man to rest,” Foster laughed. “I’ve been doing this show for nine months now and I want to take some time off to be with my four-month-old daughter.”

Full list of awards received by the Portal Players Dramatic Society:

Special Merit Certificate: Lennon Chase, Ojas Cats, Bella Paragallo, Aurayliah Clark, Teresa Drew and Hannele Talkio

Best props: Hannele Talkio

Best Sound Design: Carl Craig

Best Lighting Design: Diena Tyne

Best Supporting Actor: Scott Lemkay

Best Actor in a Male Role: Cydney Pedersen

Bill Elliot Best Director Award: Nicole Foster

Best Production: The Pillowman