The U of T Drama Festival began in 1936, to celebrate one act plays put on by the different colleges. “It wasn’t always competitive,” said Jen Collins, the festival co-coordinator. The festival was not held for some time but the Drama Coalition revived it twenty years ago. Since then, Collins explained, it has continued to evolve. “This is the 11th year where we've accepted only student-written works instead of any one act play,” she said.
Collins touts one of the advantages of the Drama Festival as “a really accessible way for students to get their works on the historic Hart House stage, and to receive professional feedback from our adjudicator.” The festival provides an opportunity for aspiring members of the drama community to get started in the professional sphere. For instance, not only have some scripts gone on to further performances, but the U of T Drama Festival also boasts a variety of famous individuals as alumni. Among them, Collins noted, are Donald Sutherland of M*A*S*H, film director Arthur Hiller, as well as several well-known stage actors.
Plays are selected for the festival by each U of T college’s drama societies (as well as UTM and UTSC), who have close to free rein in choosing what plays to put on, in addition to artistic control. “Our only real restriction is that it must be longer than 15 minutes and under 60 min. and must never have been produced before,” explained Collins.
Each night, the plays performed are publicly adjudicated, and on the final evening, winners of the various categories in the festival are announced. This year, the festival will be judged by Joel Grothe, who teaches acting at the University of Lamar in Texas.
The range of plays put on by various groups participating in the festival over the past few years have been quite varied. Among them have been science-fictional murder stories, one-man shows, and interconnected vignettes from an apartment building. With more groups than ever, attendees at this year’s festival may expect to encounter many of the surprises that U of T playwrights, directors and performers have in store.
The University of Toronto Drama Festival runs February 15 to 18 at the Hart House Theatre, at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $10 for students, available at the door.