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U of L presents dark Shakespeare-era drama Duchess of Malfi

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The University of Lethbridge’s production of Shakespearian era drama, The Duchess of Malfi is not for the faint of heart. The 1613 John Webster penned drama runs March 21-25 in the University Theatre.

“It’s a mix of Game of Thrones and the Matrix,” described third year drama student Austin Halarewich, who plays Antonio, the lover of the widowed duchess, played by Madeline Smith.
“It’s like the Game of ThronAustin Halarewich and Madeline Smith rehearse a scene from the Duchess of Malfi. Photo by Richard Ameryes because it is so gritty and dark, and it is like the Matrix because of the costumes and the soundscape which is very eerie and doesn’t fit into any specific time period and has a tribal feel. It isn’t designed for a specific time period,” Halarewich observed, adding he loves period pieces, though Chambers set this play in an indeterminate time.

 The play, though written in 1613, has been placed in an alternate reality according to director Ron Chambers.
“But he wrote it so it takes place in the 1500s. I also edited it down to about two hours from three hours by taking out things that people would just not get,” Chambers said, adding the cast includes 14 student actors, two children and a baby which isn’t real, who play the Duchess’ s doomed children.

The story begins with the recently widowed Duchess falling in love with her butler Antonio. Her two brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal, hungry for power and fortune, issue a decree that she must never marry. As she and Antonio plot to elope and flee her brothers’ treacherous claws, they are quickly deceived by Ferdinand’s spy, and their plans are interrupted by the brothers. As the plot descends into chaos, and Ferdinand and the Cardinal descend into lunacy, the Duchess and Antonio remain resolute despite the uncertainty of their fates.

“He’s (Antonio) her butler, but he’s content where he is. He’s not interested in power, but the more he falls in love with her, the more he becomes dependent on her and enjoys the life. They have to conceal their love for each other from her brothers,” Halarewich said.
 “I love period pieces. It’s a Shakespearean era play, ” he said, adding it also explores timeless themes like forbidden love.

“The play is very dark, so people will really appreciate those lighthearted moments when they happen,” he continued.

Second year drama student Madeline Smith , who plays the Duchess, never expected to be cast in the play, let alone as the leads.

“I decided to audition for the experience, I didn’t expect to get in. But when I got the callback, I cried. I’ve never played royalty in anything. So it’s a privilege,” Smith said.
“Ron is an excellent director. Everything is such a learning experience,” she said.
 She is enjoying playing the headstrong Duchess, who would have been an anomaly for the time.


Hatrix Theatre and Danceworks holding auditions Sunday for Little Shop of Horrors

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Little Shop of Horrors is coming to Lethbridge in the fall.Auditions for Little Shop of Horrors are 7-9 p.m. on March 12.
 Hatrix Theatre and Danceworks are collaborating to bring the popular Alan Menken and Howard Ashman penned 1982 comedy/rock musical about a hapless florist who raises a man eating Venus Flytrap to the  Moose Hall, Oct. 26-28 and  Oct. 31 —Nov. 4.

 Auditions are Sunday, March 12 at the Moose Hall from 7-9 p.m., and will go longer if more people show up.

“It’s a pretty small cast of six to eight people — there’s Audrey, Seymour, the Dentist, Mooshnik and the Go Go Girls,” listed director Brian Quinn, noting Danceworks’  Mark Litchfield suggested they produce Little Shop of Horrors.
“Mark was involved with  a production of  Little Shop of Horrors with another theatre company years ago,” Quinn said.

“It’s a dark comedy with an edge like Avenue Q and  the Evil Dead. And it’s Halloween, so it fits right in,” Quinn said, en route to Medicine Hat for a hockey game as well as  to check out the condition of the puppets a Medicine Hat theatre company used during their production of Little Shop of Horrors.

 The rehearsals are scheduled to begin Aug. 14 and go until the show opens with a special gala performance, Oct. 25.
 there will be no accompanist for the auditions, so auditioners are encouraged to prepare a piece with an MP3, , MIDI file or they can audition a capella. The music from the show will be available on CD if they want to sing a piece from the show itself.


Undertow Theatre Collective “Proud” to present political satire as first show

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A new Lethbridge theatre group is “Proud” to present their first production at Casa, March 9,11 and 12 at Casa.DJ Gellatly and Derek Stevenson are proud to presnt Proud at Casa this week. Photo by Richard Amery

Undertow Theatre Collective, founded by DJ Gellatly, Meredith Pritchard and Derek Stevenson will be joined by Cole Fetting in Michael Healey’s political comedy “Proud.”

“We had a fun and different goal,” said s Derek Stevenson, taking  advantage of a relatively slower time in his duties of New West Theatre’s general manager.

“We all really wanted to be on stage more and we wanted to  play to our strengths, which is comedy,” he said.

“We really wanted to bring people out and make them  part of the show. We wanted to do interesting plays in interesting spaces when we stumbled upon “Proud” and we really wanted to do it for our first show,” Stevenson said.

“Proud” is a 2011 Michael Healey penned satirical comedy inspired by Stephen Harper’s majority government.
“ It’s a satire inspired by  the 2011 Stephen Harper government, though it isn’t really directly about  it,” he continued.

“It’s very topical,” added DJ Gellatly,” who plays the prime minister.
The play takes place shortly after the Conservatives win a majority government when the prime minister discovers a secret weapon in his caucus – Jisbella Lyth, a single mother with a limited understanding of her role as a MP. Using her ignorance to his advantage, the PM hatches a plan to have Jisbella front and centre in a campaign of misdirection and distraction. Her son, played by Cole Fetting reflects on the experience from 15 years in the future.

“It’s an interesting perspective having that character narrate from 15 years later, though he is mentioned in passing in the play,” Stevenson said.


Ammena Dance Studios celebrates one last dance at World Explosion of Dance

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It has been a long run, but Lise -Ann Talhami, owner of Ammena Dance studios is  saying goodbye with one last dance– the last World Explosion of World Dance at the Yates Centre, March 3-4.Lise Anne Talhami’s last Explosion of World Dance is sure to be a blast, March 3 and 4. Photo by Richard Amery

There are a number of reasons it’s the last one. The landlord is turning the space I was using  as my studio into condominiums,” said Talhami, who opened the Pink Swan Boutique downtown in November.

“ And I’ve been doing this for a long time, 14 years, by myself. I’ve been trying to find someone to help, but haven’t found anyone. It’s been a lot of work,” she said, adding it has also been a lot of fun befriending her dancers. So the Last World Dance Explosion will send Ammena off with a blast.

“I’ve got 123 adults and my kids— 25 of them. Last year we had a circus theme. This year the theme is jet set. It’s a good way to say it’s over,” said Talhami, choking back a few tears.
“ There will be quite a few people who were in the first show, performing in this one,” she said.

 The show will encompass a variety of  dance styles, beginning with a Broadway piece, followed by Showgirls, dance hall, several African dances, burlesque, Bollywood, contemporary dancing, belly dancing, hip hop and a Beyonce piece plus Redfoo’s ‘Juicy Wiggle”.

This show also includes more men performing.
“We used to have guys in the Latin dances, but we have more guys this year,” she said. The show will also feature pianist Kate LaRocque
“The finale is every style I’ve ever taught,” Talhami said.

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