Courtenay Little Theatre is delighted to be hosting the annual North Island Zone (NIZ) Festival for a week in May when seven island theatre clubs are in the Valley with their best shows.  Starting Sunday May 14 with CLT’s ‘The Drawer Boy’, Sid Williams Theatre audience members will be entertained each evening with a different play.

During the festival, each evening after each show, adjudicator Andrew McIlroy, a Vancouver stage and screen actor and director,  will speak for about 15 minutes, giving his learned opinion on that production. The audience is encouraged to stay and listen.  The following morning, the cast, crew and other Theatre BC members are invited to attend the more lengthy ‘coffee critique’.  Actors will rehearse with McIlroy, challenging themselves to rework scenes incorporating his vision and direction.  It will be an amazing learning experience for all involved.

‘The Drawer Boy’,which completed a very successful run at the Sid, is directed by Catherine Hannon and proudly showcases CLT’s depth of talent.  From the fine acting on stage and stunning imaginative set, to the detailed set dressings and accurate costuming, ‘The Drawer Boy’ is sure to set the bar high for the following clubs’ productions.  The play is set in an Ontario farming community during the summer of 1972 and tells the story of how the lives of two bachelor farmers are transformed when a young Toronto actor, doing research for a play, unwittingly uncovers their long submerged secrets.

Monday, May 15, will be the Portal Players of Port Alberni with the well-known beloved story ‘Anne of Green Gables’.  May 16 is ‘Jenny’s House of Joys’ presented by Campbell River’s Rivercity Players.  Jenny runs the best little house of ill repute in her corner of the old west.  Nanaimo Theatre Group will be producing ‘Toronto Mississippi’ on May 17, a story that revolves around Jhanna, a funny, passionate, and often exasperating 18 year old who also happens to be mentally challenged.

On Thursday, May 18, Theatreworks, another local theatre company, will be presenting ‘Asylum’.  Written and directed by artistic director Kymme Patrick, ‘Asylum’ sees historical figures woven into imaginative fiction.  The story focuses on the circumstances of several women, typically poor, homeless, immigrant or wards of the court.

Friday’s offering will be The Collective Theatre Company with ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’ where the main character wakes up to find an unhappy muse in her living room.  The final show of the seven nights is ‘Marion Bridge performed by Echo Players from Qualicum Beach.  This is a moving story of three sisters gathering together in Cape Breton to be with their dying mother.

As this NIZ Festival is adjudicated, winners in various categories are chosen, with Best Production having the opportunity to attend the BC Festival Mainstage, this year in Vernon.

Over the years, Courtenay Little Theatre has been awarded many times in every category. Notably,’Romeo and Juliet’ (2005), ‘Maggie’s Getting Married’ (2006), and ‘Biloxi Blues’ (2009) have ultimately been recognized as Best Production at the BC Mainstage festival where clubs from all over the province have gone to share and be adjudicated.

The NIZ festival is an excellent opportunity for lovers of live theatre to indulge in their passion.  As CLT only hosts every five years, this variety of offerings in one setting is not to be missed.  With the support of local sponsors Paul Chisholm of RBC Wealth Management Dominion Securities and Jane Denham of REMAX Ocean Pacific Realty, CLT is proud to be inviting the five out of town theatre clubs to the Comox Valley.

Tickets for the Theatre BC North Island Zone Festival can be obtained from the Sid Williams Theatre, www.sidwilliamstheatre.com, 250-338-2430, and at the box office.  Single tickets are $18, with a three day pass for $48.  The best value is a full festival pass for $98, only $14 per production.  This is excellent value for theatre of such quality.  (Processing fees extra).  At the NIZ Festival there is ‘Festival Seating’ which means every seat is available on entry to the theatre.  In this week of exciting performances, all plays begins at 7:30 p.m.