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Hatrix Theatre’s Avenue Q auditions happen Nov. 26

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Everybody grew up on Sesame Street. But what happens when Sesame Street grows up?
That’s the concept of the irreverent musical comedy, Avenue Q, a 2003 Tony Award winning Broadway production which Lethbridge Theatre company Hatrix Theatre will be bringing to the stage in May.

“ We’ve done irreverent productions before like The Evil Dead and Spamalot, which was a comedy, but which also had poignant moments,”  said director Brian Quinn noting Spamalot and Avenue Q are two musicals he’s most wanted to put on in Lethbridge.  As of May he will have done both.
 So the local theatre company is looking for at least 14 good men and women to bring the show to the stage beginning with auditions, Nov. 26 at the Moose Hall.
 The musical combines three human actors with 11 puppets and a lot of hard hitting comedy.

“They aren’t the actual Sesame Street characters, so there's no Bert or Ernie or Cookie Monster or Oscar the Grouch, but they are definitely inspired by Sesame Street,” said director Brian Quinn adding the production will appeal to a lot of different people, particularly university students and recent graduates who will be able to identify with the sentiments of the production.
“The principal character Princeton has just graduated with a BA in English and sings a song ‘What Do You Do With a BA In English.’ He just graduates and doesn’t have a job yet so he moves to a lower income part of the city based on tenement flats in big cities- Avenue Q,” Quinn continued adding he meets all kinds of interesting characters there.

“ This definitely isn’t Guys and Dolls,” said Quinn adding the play is meant for mature audiences as it explores some pretty prevalent issues like racism, sex, relationships, Internet porn and many other issues.

“ We won’t be casting anyone under the age of 18. Though people under 18 can attend the show.  It shouldn’t be up to me to make that decision. That’s up to the parents,” he said.
 For example a discussion be about whether the characters Kate Monster and Trekkie Monster are related inspires a song called “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist.”
“It isn’t the idyllic world of Sesame Street,” Quinn continued.


Lethbridge Entertainment Expo appeals to all pop culture aficionados

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The Lethbridge Entertainment Expo will be bigger and better this year at Exhibition Park, Nov. 22-23.
 There will be plenty to do for pop culture aficionados of all stripes from playing video games, role-playing games,  cosplay to meeting movie stars and actors.
“We’re sold out of vendor space already,” said organizer Matthew Odland adding he learned a lot from last year's event.Matthew Odland  is excited about the second annual Lethbridge Entertainment Expo, Nov.  22-23 at Exhibition Park. Photos by Richard Amery

“We’re adding a gaming area where people can go to play video games, role-playing games and board games while waiting for panels,” he said adding panels will take place in the same area as the vendors rather than in a separate room like last year.

“ Last year people didn’t know where the panels and special guests were,” he said.
Some of the special guests include English actress and model Esme Bianco, best known for playing Ros in the popular TV series “Game of Thrones.”
“Her character wasn’t even in the book but the producers liked her so much that they basically created the role for her,” Odland said.
They also feature famed voice actor Billy West who voiced several characters in Futurama and Ren and Stimpy.
“ He’s also the voice of the red M and M in their commercials,” Odland continued.

Another highlight will be Garrett Richard Wang, who played Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager.
From the comic book world, Calgary artist Steve Gervais as  are siblings Nathan and Erin Millar who created the graphic novel “Where She Walks.”
 And Lethbridge's own “Slaughterhouse Slough” creator Eric Dyck will also be on hand.

 Alexander Finbow of Canmore based Renegade Arts Entertainment was so impressed with his experience at last year’s expo, that he decided to return with a bigger presence this year.
Renegade Arts Entertainment releases many historically  themed graphic novels as well as the world's biggest and best classic horror audiobook library, Doug Bradley's Spinechiller.

Finbow will be accompanied by Raymond based artist Claude St. Aubin who has worked on  comics for Marvel and DC including Aquaman and the Green Lantern and  Edmonton based writer and cartoonist Jeff Martin who is behind  a couple of Renegade’s cornerstone projects.

“We were part of the first Expo last year. I came by myself just to help out. But what impressed me was how enthusiastic everyone was,” said Finbow.
“I’m used to bigger shows like Calgary and Toronto and the number of people who go to them can be overwhelming,” he said.
“But in Lethbridge, there weren’t as many people, but all of them were just so enthusiastic,” emphasized Finbow who got his start writing and directing for movies and moved to Canada five years ago where he got inspired by Canadian history.

“When I emigrated to Canada from England five years ago, I started learning Canadian history and immediately fell in love with it. I couldn’t believe there weren‘t already comic books about Canadian history,” he said noting he started looking for graphic novels based on Canadian history, which lead him to the recent release of Jeff Martin’s new book “Redcoastsish.”

“It is about two men during the War of 1812 who join the militia and help burn the White House down. They like to eat, but they don’t like to march or fight. It’s very funny,” he said.
“ You get lost in a fantastic story and accidentally learn about history,” he said.

“ If Americans had done the something similar, they’d probably have a national holiday. Canadians are too humble,” he said.
When deciding on what projects to publish, he looks for a good story as well as a little humour.

They have released nine books and are already planning ahead for three years from now.
“The cycle of a book to research to writing and artwork is about  three to five years. So probably the earliest new project would be released would be in 2017, ” he observed adding there are exceptions.
“We have a new book coming out in November called ‘Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter. ’ Robbie Burns was known as a drinker and a womanizer. So the authors (Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby) asked the question what if one event turned Robbie Burns from man about town to poet of renown. What if his poem ‘Tam’ O’ Shanter’ was a story that actually happened to him,” he said.


Songwriter Danny Michel going back to the basics on latest tour

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Toronto songwriter Danny Michel is going back to the basics when he returns to Lethbridge, Nov. 24 to play the Slice.Danny Michel returns to Lethbridge to play a stripped down show, Nov. 24. Photo by Richard Amery

Michel,  a three time Juni nominated singer songwriter and  producer,  has had a busy year helping with a variety of charity events  with David Suzuki and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy.
“ I’ve been busy doing everything but working on my music,” Michel said emphasizing it is important to help out other people where-ever he can.

“It feels good and it is the right thing to do,” Michel said, who in addition to helping other charitable causes also has his own— raising money for  schools in Belize.
 He  gets asked to do a lot  for charity so has to pick and choose the causes that feel most to him.

“ It’s actually been a nice break and a nice change. But over Christmas it will be time to hunker down and make a new record,” he continued, adding he is excited to get back on the road.
 He was last year almost exactly a year ago with the Garifuna Collective — a group of musicians he met while recording in Belize.

“I haven’t been there since I recorded the album. I have to get back there, but flights there are expensive,” he said.


A whole lot of rock happening this week

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This is the week for testosterone powered, dirty, loud rock and roll due to a lot of really excellent loud shows happening throughout the week.Toni Vere returns to LEthbridge with Carla Olive this weekend. Photo by Richard Amery

 White Cowbell Oklahoma, one of my favourite southern rock influenced band of madmen, make a long awaited return to Lethbridge on the heels of re-releasing their CD “Buenas Naches.”
 This is going to be an amazing bill at the Slice on Nov. 21 as Vancouver's Big John Bates are joining them as are the Paceshifters coming all the way from the Netherlands.
 It is going to be one hell of a show, so if you like loud rock and roll and  lots of showmanship, don’t miss it. Tickets cost $20.

 If your ears aren’t ringing too badly from that show, Antigonish Nova Scotia born Torontonians The Trews return to Average Joes, Nov. 22. The Trews have just released their self titled “thank you album for their fans” This will be an excellent double bill too as Kingston rock band the Glorious Sons return to Lethbridge to open the show. The show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $25 in advance, $40 at the door.

  The Slice features an excellent pop punk show on Nov. 24 with local bands Open 24/7, Pistols and Parachutes and Left is Always Right along with  Calgary's Come Out Swinging and Winnipeg band Broadview and acoustic folk performer Frankie Curchelles aka Alone I Walk.
 For something a little more country, Winnipeg country/ roots musician Sean Burns visits the Owl Acoustic Lounge with Kris Ulrich, Nov. 21.

Calgary folk/ roots band  the Ashley Hundred return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge this week as well to play a Nov. 22 show with We Were Friends.
 And in a similar vein, Carla Olive and Toni Vere return to Lethbridge to play upbeat roots and folk music at the Mocha Cabana this weekend on Friday and Saturday.
 Earlier in the week, if you want to hear the blues, Calgary’s Tony Kaye will be rocking the Slice, blues style on Nov. 20. There is a five dollar cover for the show.


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