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P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival is serving a smorgasbord of plays on Saturday

Detective Dennis O’Finn (Gordon MacMillan), left, investigates the murder scene in “Any Body for Tea?”. It’s the Murray Players entry in the P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival on Saturday at the Carrefour Theatre in Charlottetown. From left are Jaime Gardner (Elizabeth Ellsworth) Bertie Beauregard (Donna Penny) and Hildegarde Hodge (Mary-Lou MacLure). JOHN HARDY/SUBMITTED PHOTO
Detective Dennis O’Finn (Gordon MacMillan), left, investigates the murder scene in “Any Body for Tea?”. It’s the Murray Players entry in the P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival on Saturday at the Carrefour Theatre in Charlottetown. From left are Jaime Gardner (Elizabeth Ellsworth) Bertie Beauregard (Donna Penny) and Hildegarde Hodge (Mary-Lou MacLure). JOHN HARDY/SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Guardian

When the curtain rises on the P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival on March 17 audience members will get to choose from a smorgasbord of theatre performance art. 

That’s because seven different groups will be serving up seven plays. 

“It is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. For one low price, you can make your way through an afternoon of tastes from appetizer to dessert — a mystery and a musical, to improv and legend – with plenty of belly-laugh comedy along the way,” says Rob Thomson, one of the organizers of the festival that starts to sizzle at 1 p.m. at the Carrefour Theatre in Charlottetown on Saturday.

For the first course, the Murray Players will serve the suspenseful comedy, “Any Body for Tea?
In the play, six proper spinsters cook up an unusual method to attract the attention of a handsome homicide detective, while unravelling a whodunit.

Their entry was inspired by the time element.

“We wanted a 30-minute play for the festival. Our other play was only 17 minutes long. So, this one fits quite nicely in the community theatre requirement,” says troupe member John Hardy.

It’s the second time that the Murray Players have entered the festival. The troupe “thoroughly enjoyed” last year’s experience.

“Everyone loved it. No one felt fearful of what was going to happen. It was also nice to have a critic, someone who gives us pointers as to how we might be able to do it better.”

For example, last year they performed on a large stage for the first time. 

“So, we learned how to spread out. We learned from our experience, and that’s why we came back.”

Playwright Malcolm Murray goes over the script for “Missing Mom” with Barbara Rhodenizer.  She’s one of the actors reading excerpts from his play at the P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival on Saturday. Others include Kathleen Hamilton, Rob MacLean and Noah Nazim. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN
Playwright Malcolm Murray goes over the script for “Missing Mom” with Barbara Rhodenizer. She’s one of the actors reading excerpts from his play at the P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival on Saturday. Others include Kathleen Hamilton, Rob MacLean and Noah Nazim. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

Later in the afternoon, audience members will get their just desserts when “Missing Mom”, a staged reading by P.E.I. playwright Malcolm Murray, is presented by actors Kathleen Hamilton, Rob MacLean, Noah Nazim and Barbara Rhodenhizer. It was inspired by Murray’s grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease.

“I took the ideas of living with Alzheimer’s and what a mother is and turned it into an absurd scenario,” says the UPEI philosophy professor.

It’s the story of what happens when a mother, who has the progressive brain disorder, goes missing at a nursing home and the search that ensues. During the investigation, someone suggests that the missing woman has “gone back to the haunts of her youth” so her son searches for the mother at a previous residence and, sure enough, finds an Alzheimer patient there. 

“So he finds a mother, but is she his? . . . I don’t want to give the story all away,” says Murray, with a twinkle in his eye.

He is thrilled about the reading that will feature two scenes of a longer, four-scene play, as well as the opportunity that it brings.

“I’m totally excited. We have great readers,  great actors with great stage presence. There’s going to be an adjudicator. So, it’s going to be nice to hear how they respond.” 

Depending on how the reading goes, Murray may feel inspired to mount the play in the future.

“I’d like to see it produced….It would be nice to combine this with two other one-act plays.”

As for the near future, Hardy’s looking forward to Saturday’s performance.

“We hope people will be open to whatever is being performed and react in the way they think is suitable.”

Need to know

- What: P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival.

- When and where: March 17, 1-5 p.m., Carrefour Theatre, Charlottetown. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.

- Lineup: The Murray Players - “Any Body for Tea?”, 1 p.m.; Nadine Salami & Friends - “Ma meilleure amie, ma meilleure ennemie”, 1:45 p.m.; The Tracadie Players - “News Mix at Six”, 2:30 p.m.; Spotlight School of Arts - “Improv Fun!”, 3:10 p.m.; A.C.T. (a community theatre) - “Rainbow Valley” (scenes), 3:45 p.m.; The Malcolm Murray Readers - “Missing Mom” 4:15 p.m.; and Mi’kmaq Heritage Players – “Mi’kmaq Legends”, 4:45 p.m.
Adjudicators: Laura K. Bird and Monique Lafontaine.

Admission: Pay-what-you-will. Refreshments will be available.

sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/SallyForth57

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