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SKAMpede and new festival Between Words promise spectators a “sampler platter” of Victoria’s local community theatre

The two summer festivals, happening in June and July, showcase theatre all in one-act

By Jonathan Brenneman

When we think of plays, it’s natural to think first of the longer-format version, the three-act dramatic structure with an inciting incident, followed by rising tension, and finally the climax. But how does this all work in a one-act play?

“One-act plays are like short stories,” says Kurt Archer, the director of the Between Words Theatre Company. “They have a beginning, middle and end, but they pack a punch being in a tighter time period.”

As the founder of the Victoria One-Act Play Festival (VOAPF), which will be running for the first time this year between June 8-10 in Victoria, Archer brings a passion for the format informed by years working in Calgary’s community theatre scene. He will also be contributing a one-act play of his own – The Great Shift – written and directed by himself.

“I wrote the play in 2019 to be performed on stage in 2020 in Calgary,” Archer says. “Sadly, one week before opening night, Covid shut everything down, and so my play never made it to the stage. Fast forward to 2022, when I had the inspiration to put my play on again, this time in Victoria, but realized there wasn’t a One-Act Play Festival for me to perform it in. So I decided to start my own festival. This festival will be bringing together 10 different plays that have never been seen before, all locally written, produced and acted.”

But does he regret limiting the growth of performances by keeping them so short? Not at all. According to Kurt, while the format of minimalist theatre comes with its own challenges, the benefits are quite clear as well:

“One Act Plays are ideal for emerging artists who want to tackle an issue in shorter periods of time. The drawback is that you don’t have time to necessarily flush outside plots or really develop the characters in a deep and meaningful way. But as short stories can be potent, so can one-act plays.”

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VOAPF is only one of several festivals giving the one-act play a platform this summer. SKAMpede — a project of Victoria’s Theatre SKAM — is currently preparing for its 15th year. Unlike VOAPF, which will take place entirely at the Belfry Theatre in Fernwood, SKAMpede has the special distinction of being a mobile festival, staging performances in a variety of outdoor venues including the Songhees Walkway, the David Foster Walkway, and even the Galloping Goose. Rather than buying tickets for individual shows, spectators can instead take an hour-long tour by foot or by bike, following a pre-scheduled route. In so doing, the travel itself becomes part of the performance, and arguably, the audience becomes part of the show.

“It brings back some of the ‘theatre magic’ often lost when performing outdoors: the audience doesn’t see the actors preparing or resetting the scenery like they would if we programmed multiple shows sequentially at the same location,” says Theatre SKAM’s lead producer Logan Swain.

What also sets SKAMpede apart is it is a performing arts festival, pushing the boundaries of classic theatre with performances that are all limited to a 10-minute time frame. Swain highlights that there are many benefits to keeping things ‘one-act’.

“The short show length allows us to program tours for our audience that showcase a variety of performance styles. One might see puppets, interpretive dance, a monologue, then a comedy, or a mime, a musical, a drama, and improv. In under an hour, they are exposed to four different performances and get some daily exercise.

“Ten-minute plays are very palatable for audiences, and if a show isn’t their cup of tea, they don’t have long to wait for the next one.”

Both Swain and Archer agree that Victoria is an ideal-setting for one-act plays due to the strong base of emerging artists in the city and that festivals like theirs help foster and support local theatre.

“I think there was a gap in the theatre landscape that our festival is filling,” says Archer. “I’ve met quite a few people in Victoria with Theatre degrees, but have chosen other careers because the competition for talent is so great. Community theatre that allows people to create in a part-time manner is ripe for a city like Victoria where there is so much talent.”

Swain agrees. “Victoria is a great City for emerging artists to cut their teeth, and with two post-secondary institutions, the theatre department at UVic and the Canadian College of Performing Arts, we have a lot of young artists around. Shorter plays are a great format for exploring new ideas.”

The Victoria One-Act Play Festival will play at the Belfry Theatre from June 8-10. Tickets and information are available at For SKAMpede, which runs in Victoria July 14-16, visit

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