Ever since Ernest Hemingway (allegedly) wrote the six-word novel “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” creative types have had a lot of fun embracing the challenge of doing a lot with a little. The theatre world is no different.
St. John’s Shorts is a different kind of theatre festival for the city. All the performances in the ten-day festival clock in at an hour or less; in fact, the shortest will take just over two minutes to bring audiences from beginning to end.
Don’t let the running time fool you though—the stories are just as funny, sad, and profound as typical three act plays, and the casts and crew are working just as hard to ensure this year’s set of shows is as successful as the inaugural festival last year.
According to Natalia Hennelly, Artistic Director and co-founder of the festival, the emphasis on short pieces provides local artists with a unique opportunity to hone their crafts, while providing an interesting experience for theatre-goers.
“Honestly, it’s the drive to work on theatre period that’s pushing us,” she explained. “We all have fulltime other work we do, to pay rent and bills, so the opportunity to work on theatre becomes pretty minimal. The idea behind the short play festival is to create a place for theatre makers so that they have an opportunity to practice every year, regardless of their other fulltime schedule.”
“It provides another avenue of entertainment for the city,” she added. “We’re working hard to make the festival super affordable so that you can enjoy an evening of live entertainment, and then go for dinner or drinks, catch a music show.”
The collectivity of St. John’s Shorts also makes it stand out from other theatre festivals. All the individual companies producing shows in the festival play invaluable roles on its volunteer organizing committee.
“Theatre isn’t something you can practice alone in your room—you need a group of people, you need space, and you need an audience. It can be really difficult to make all that happen on your own, and if the independent theatre producers in St. John’s came together, I believed we could make it easier,” Hennelly said.
Even with a volunteer organization and community support (the City of St. John’s and Resource Centre for the Arts have provided financial support to this year’s festival), however, there are still bills to be paid. Fortunately, that same collective mind came up with a solution to make sure that more of the festival’s revenue ends up going back to the artists: a party to dance like no one’s watching into the wee hours of a midsummer’s evening at the Elks Club.
“We want you to send us the tunes you want to dance to and we’ll play them. I’ve already stacked the list with a lot of my 90s favourites. Instead of just asking people for money, we wanted to organize something that’d be fun for everybody,” she said of the upcoming fundraiser on August 4.
“There should always be more dancing in life.”
Tickets for the Midsummer Dance Party can be purchased online or at Fred’s Records for $10 before the festivities kick off, or $12 at the door. The St. John’s Short Play Festival runs from September 14-24 at the LSPU Hall.