After a busy holiday season, a local theater company is preparing for a new tradition.
Time is ticking away to enter Post Productions’ second Annual Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition. Ending at midnight, the opportunity for Windsor-Essex actresses to perform at two nights of live shows is closing. In addition to highlighting local talent, all three to five minute selections will be from Winnie’s latest book, Cracked Heart: 100 unusual monologues for women.
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Getting right into the process, coaching sessions will begin shortly after the deadline has expired.
“We decided to involve coaching sessions in the preparation process because we wanted to make sure no one hit the stage feeling unprepared or unsupported,” said Michael K. Potter, Post Productions managing director, coordinator, coach and MC of the 2023 event. “We wanted to give contestants a chance to try things out, get some feedback, advice and experiment until they were satisfied with their own performance. The most interesting and rewarding part of the coaching experience for me was the opportunity to get to know new actors I’d never met before and hear them slay their monologues on stage.”
It was also exciting for Purple Theater Co. artistic director and returning coach Joey Ouellette.
“One of the nicest parts was having a participant have to switch monologues and start from zero,” he said. “Building the piece with movement helped to really bring it alive and that process was exciting.”
After this, a live format is used to crown a winner. Performing at the Shadowbox Theater (located at 103b – 1501 Howard Avenue,) each actor is given a score by the audience and judges respectively. Combined scores from both nights are then counted until a winner is selected at the second event: Placing gold earns $300, silver is $200 and bronze is $100.
Beyond the cash, this element also brings monologues to life.
“The energy of the audience was the missing piece,” said Winnie of last year’s event. “You can walk and talk on the stage, but the audience brings the energy, the actor accepts it and gives it back.”
It’s a transformation that Potter experienced first hand as well.
“I can say that from my perspective as a coach, I saw contestants last year who were already giving good performances in our coaching sessions,” he said. “Then they hit the stage and it was an entirely different phenomenon. You don’t realize how good a monologue or a scene can be until it’s infused with the energy of living breathing people waiting for your next move.”
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Another big element of last year’s competition was the all-female judges panel. On top of this, showing representation for theater companies from across the area was a high priority. Bringing their own unique writing, acting and directing perspectives, they all expressed a desire to return this year.
While unforeseen circumstances prevented this, three past judges will still be unhand again: Moya McAlister from Arts Collective Theatre, Shana Fathers Thibert from Revolution Youth Theater and Fay Lynn from Post Productions.
Expanding the panel, Waawiiyaatanong Feminist Theater (WFT) artistic director Rebecca Mickle and another local talent will bring their experience to the show.
“One of the new judges this year is Michelle Mainwairing, a veteran actor in Windsor-Essex who everyone has probably seen at least once, if not many times during their lives,” said Potter. “She has a deep well of experience as an actor in all sorts of different media and worked with many different companies. She’s an enthusiastic and generous person whom we know will give the competitors feedback that will help them grow.”
This compliments the constructive criticisms judges give participants. Focusing on details of each performance, it draws upon diverse knowledge to create a learning experience for everyone.
Based on last year’s contest, it’s another way to empower actors who aren’t used to the spotlight.
“Participants received coaching and feedback from judges,” said Winnie. “Then they had a second night to perform and put that feedback into action. The audience, besides supporting and applauding, also voted to help determine the winner. The competition aspect may grab the headlines but really it’s the support of coaches, judges, audience and fellow performers that’s exceptional. It’s a great way for participants to develop self-confidence.”
With everyone having a positive experience, deciding to continue was easy. Another big reason for this is the playwright’s new book of monologues. Written specifically for women, Cracked Heart is described by Winnie as being about love and its associated feelings.
Despite the final product, she didn’t originally think there was enough substance to flesh it out.
“When I started writing it I thought it was a narrow subject,” said the author. “As time passed, over the eight months of writing it, I began to accept that it’s an endless subject. Our hearts can be part of everything we do. This book seemed more difficult to write; partly because hindsight is unreliable and also because there was something to compare it too. What is it as good as the first? What’s funny enough? Were the words true? Ultimately all such judgments and delusions had to be shut out so the words could drip, like spring maple sap, to be collected and refined.”
Feeling satisfied, the book creates new emotions for this year’s competition.
“I think the monologues are better this year, but also sadder,” said Winnie. “There’s still a lot of humor and quirk in the pieces, but these ones seem more complete to me.”
Out of last year’s six contestants, many have been active locally. After winning the 2022 competition, Christina Orlando has kept busy: On top of performing at the Bank Theater in Leamington last spring, she’s also writing a play and put together an acting course. Placing third, Linda Collard appeared in the same play as Orlando, a Purple Theater Co. production last fall and will star in The Children by Lucy Kirkwood — Post’s first production of 2023. Chantel Pare acted in a co-production of Bite Me, Big Time! by Purple Theater Co. and Post along with Ouellette’s Pirate Attack on the 1C Bus Going Downtown, which was produced by the latter.
Mickle may be 2022’s most prominent contestant however. Having starred in Three Tall Women, The Rhinoceros Woman, Bite Me Big Time! and Stuck with Post, she also performed in productions by Purple Theater Co. and WFT. On top of that, the actor became artistic director of the latter.
After much uncertainty, last year’s event allowed many to do something different in local theatre.
“I think several of the past participants used it as a spring board to get involved in new things,” said Winnie. “Part of it was the timing. Lots of local performers had been idled during the pandemic. This was a way to start again, be seen by judges representing different companies and an audience eager for fun.”
Submissions are open until 11:59 tonight with more information on Post’s website. Sponsorships are also being offered for those unable to pay a $20 entry fee. In association with WFT, monologue performances will take place on Saturday March 17 and Saturday March 18 at 8 pm each night: Tickets for the event can be found online as well.
Last year, WFT made a donation resulting in cash prizes for all runner ups. Looking to make it a permanent fixture of the competition, Post Productions is also looking for sponsors to provide them once again. Those interested can contact the company via email.
Similar to American Idol without mean-spirited commentary, the contest’s namesake is excited for this year’s edition.
“Hopefully the competition will again be a springboard for those entering the field, as well as a workshop activity for others already in it,” said Winnie. “We’re hoping for an even bigger turnout than last year. Attendees can expect some sharp, funny and sad monologues delightfully done by talented participants.”
She also hopes they can recreate the atmosphere from last year.
“It was fun,” said the playwright about last year’s event. “There was such a buzz in the air at the shows! Backstage the performers were helping and encouraging each other. It was like each monologue was a mountain and each participant, with the support of judges and audience, climbed it and planted a flag at the top.”