Members of Gander’s Avion Players take home wins at the 2014 Provincial Drama Festival
The 2014 Provincial Drama Festival was fueled by some of the top performers on the island, and three members of the Avion Players have been recognized for their roles in this year’s festival.
© Frank Gale/tc• Media
DRAMTIC WIN – Gander’s Avion Players closed out performances at the 2014 Provincial Drama Festival on April 26, performing the Laramie Project. Shawn Tiller, back left, picked up the award for best supporting performance by a man, while Michelle Dove, back right, took home the award for best supporting performance by a woman. Stage manager Wanda Moore, front, was also recognized for her efforts with the Transcontinental Media NL Newspapers/Western Star Scholarship. From left, Tiller, Moore, and Dove.
The Gander drama group closed out performances on April 26 as members performed the Laramie Project, a play about the beating and killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.
Shawn Tiller, who played several roles including the father of Matthew Shepard, walked away with the award for best supporting performance by a man. The win came unexpectedly.
“It was complete a surprise,” said Tiller. “I played seven different characters ranging from Dennis Shepard, CEO of the hospital that Matthew was admitted, to a gay man in the town of Laramie, to several company members. It’s a unique play in that it’s a play about the characters in the town and their response to the beating and death of Matthew Shepard.”
It was a chance to build upon his acting skill in a number of roles.
“Members of the Tectonic Theatre Project went to Laramie to conduct interviews, and, basically, their interviews were the dialogue to the play,” said Tiller. “We played a bunch of different characters, so it gave me an oppourtunity to play very different characters in a short period of time. I think that might have been what Robert Joy saw when he felt that I was deserving of the award.”
Given the nature of the play, the performances drew upon heavy emotions, but a lot of credit goes to the directors, he said.
“The characters that I played were in the very emotional parts of the play, but it would have been nothing without Jennifer Stanley and Nick Mercer who directed it. The way they helped us present it made the play. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the way they presented and interpreted the script for us. We help interpret the characters, but it’s all under their guidance and what they think will work best. So, I wouldn’t have won anything if they hadn’t given me those characters, and told me how they wanted them presented.”
Michelle Dove has performed at the Provincial Drama Festival for over two decades, and was recognized for her performance at this year’s festival in Stephenville with the award for best supporting performance by a woman.
“I felt fantastic about it,” said Dove. “Being involved with Avion is a wonderful thing, a great chamadery, and it’s lots of fun within the group. You do it because you love doing it, and then when you get to a festival knowing that someone else appreciates it is validation for you. It makes you feel like you’re doing something right besides the fact you’re having a great time doing it.”
The Laramie Project had some emotional moments that seemed to sharply resonate with the audience, said Dove.
“It was a topic that had a lot of people reflective about it. Doing it over and over kind of takes away the emotion from when you first think about it. Then when you perform for that final audience and you hear and feel the reaction, it brings it all back. So, that was a good thing.”
The veteran performer said winning the award could have been attributed to the emotional aspect of the story.
“Some of us are real performance people,” said Dove. “When you’re in front of a audience you tend to bring your best game. For sure, having a theatre audience we knew would appreciate every aspect of everything we did from the acting to stage management, you heighten your game a little bit because they are so educated in it.”
Like Tiller, Dove played several characters, including the theatre director at the school in Laramie, a minister’s wife, and a number of other roles.
“We had a really strong cast, but I knew there were some really great performances by other females earlier in the week in the other shows, so it really surprised me,” she said.
Wanda Moore, stage manager of the Laramie Project, picked up the Transcontinental Media NL Newspapers/Western Star scholarship. The award recognizes the talent, commitment, and contribution of first-time festival participants.