LA PLATA, Md. – The sense of camaraderie that occurs whenever a large group of people get together in one physical space in order to celebrate their love of a particular activity contains the ability to create a tangible, irreproducible experience that leaves its participants truly satisfied. During the weekend of February 11th, this precise phenomenon occurred in the form of the Maryland Community Theatre Festival (MCTFA) at the Port Tobacco Players’ theater.
Originally founded in 1986 by Colonel John Moser and later given the name that it now claims, the Maryland Community Theatre Festival has been an (mostly) annual occurrence since then that hosts a one act play competition. Each year the festival is hosted by different community theaters across Maryland and typically takes place over the course of one or two days, depending on how many competitors there are. During odd numbered years (this year being such), the victor(s) of the festival continue on to the Eastern States Regional Festival (ESTA) where they compete and have the opportunity to move on to the week-long American Association of Community Theatre’s national festival (AACTFest).
An impressive 7 theatre companies competed at this year’s festival – Port Tobacco Players, Rockville Little Theatre, Kentland Community Players, New Direction Community Theater, Newtowne Players, British Players, and Raging Hag Productions. Four of them were southern Maryland theatre companies – PTP, NDCT, NTP, and RHP. For the sake of brevity, I will only be highlighting the four SoMD companies in this article.
PTP’s entry this year was a comedy entitled Hotline about a business that encourages its callers to swear at its representatives in order to release their anger. Nathan Detweiler portrays an energetic representative struggling on his first call with a client who refuses to swear. Detweiler earned an Outstanding Achievement in Acting award for his hilarious efforts. The company also won the Special Recognition for Outstanding Set Dressing/Properties.
NDCT brought us an originally written piece by local author Rick Thompson entitled The Beauty of Natural Love that explores how far one actress is willing to go on stage in order to advance her career. Linda Hiortdahl picked up the Outstanding Performance in a Cameo Role for her work as the assistant Barbara in the show and Aly Wirth Cross rightfully took home Outstanding Achievement in Acting for her exuberantly animated take on a quirky actress.
NTP’s selection for this year brought complexity in its simplicity with their entry I am Herbert about an elderly couple who are having trouble remembering who they are to each other. For the lovely environment of a porch that they created, they were awarded Special Recognition for Theatrical Environment. The two actors who played the seasoned couple, Rick Thompson and Stacey Park, also earned the company a Special Recognition for Acting Chemistry award.
Finishing with a bang, RHP graced the festival with the emotionally moving Paradise by local author Trish Cole. The play told the heartbreaking tale of a young girl being given a very unorthodox birds and the bees talk by her downtrodden mother. Interspersed between the main narrative are reimagined sequences from the Garden of Eden and an older woman recounting her tragic experiences growing up.
Raging Hag Productions went home with a remarkable 5 awards – Special Achievement in Playwriting for Trish Cole, Outstanding Ensemble Performance, Outstanding Achievement in Acting for Emily Funderburk, Cliff Smith Memorial Award for Excellence in Directing for Trish Cole and Sarah Pollard, and Outstanding Production. The final award earned them the opportunity to advance to ESTA this April in Delaware.
Rockville Little Theatre will also be advancing to ESTA. Several other awards were also presented to the other theatre companies for their outstanding achievements during the festival. For more information on MCTFA and the other awards, please visit their website here. MCTFA is already in the process of planning next year’s festival for 2024.
VIEW ALL PHOTOS BELOW:
All photos courtesy of the seven competing theaters and MCTFA.
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