I just spent the past couple of days adjudicating the Saskatchewan Drama Association Region 11 One Act Play Festival at Walter Murray Collegiate in Saskatoon and I am still reeling from the entire experience. I've been to many drama festivals over the years, but this one had a very special energy that I can only describe as magical. It was an exceptionally positive weekend -- overflowing with talented students, entertaining productions, and inspiring moments that I will cherish always.
Theatre is all about people getting together to create a work of art that brings other people together. I have never in my entire life been to a competitive festival where ALL of the participants (and that is no exaggeration) were more interested in celebrating each others' work than they were winning awards. Talk about together. And holy cow, was there plenty to celebrate about! The caliber of the productions was utterly astounding. Normally there are one or two productions that stand out from the pack, but this year there were a handful plays that could have advanced to the Provincial Festival in May and represented Region 11 extremely well. This, of course, made my job very difficult.
Hands down, the hardest part of being an adjudicator for me is deciding who wins what awards. While I do enjoy recognizing those students whose energy and creativity contribute a little something extra special to their production, it breaks my heart to think that anyone might go home feeling anything but proud of their accomplishment simply because they did not leave with any hardware. What made this weekend special was that everyone was so incredibly supportive and respectful of one another that the awards felt secondary to the celebration that was taking place all around me. After the awards banquet, I was overwhelmed by the number of students and teachers who came up to me to let me know what a terrific experience the festival had been. Win or lose, they still had huge smiles on their faces, which is exactly what the arts are all about. (And I don't think I've ever received so many hugs or posed for so many photos in my life!)
I met a huge number of students this weekend and although our encounters were brief, it was my honour to get to know each and every one of them. I sincerely hope they were able to learn something from our time together, but what I really hope is that they know just how much I learned from them. The courage, confidence, and creativity I saw up there on that stage is what gives me the courage, confidence, and creativity to keep doing what I love to do.
Congratulations to everyone involved this year, and a special thank you to backstage adjudicator Cheryl Scherle for her technical expertise and infectious enthusiasm, as well as Jeff Soucy and everyone else at Walter Murray Collegiate for making everyone feel so welcome and appreciated!