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U of L Opera workshop and Lethbridge Symphony having fun with Gilbert and Sullivan

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The University of Lethbridge Opera Society are  having fun with their annual collaboration with the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra as they bring your favourite Gilbert and Sullivan songs to the Southminster United Church, Feb. 2 and 3.Hannah Nickel , Ben Jaquish and Max Hopkins rehearse a scene from the HMS Pinafore. Photo by Richard Amery

“These are three of the most enduring operas by Gilbert and Sullivan,” said U of L Opera Workshop director Dr. Blaine Hendsbee.

“We open with with Pirates of Penzance and a couple of familiar numbers from that,” he said.

“The second part of the show is The HMS Pinafore, though not the whole two-and-a-half hour opera but enough of it so you get the major plot points. Then it’s the Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan’s fictional Victorian portrayal of Japan — Titipu. It’s a political satire of British society and government under the guise of Japan, because all things Japanese was a huge fad at the time,” he continued.

“They weren’t considered ‘traditional opera,’” he continued, adding their operas remain popular almost 150 years later.

“Gilbert and Sullivan have been on the stage for over 100 years so their works have endured. And there is the social and political satire, which has a lot of relevance today. People got to laugh at themselves. It’s a lot of fun. And it is an extremely physical production there is a lot of movement and dancing,” he continued.

“It is also a bigger production than Gilbert and Sullivan productions usually are.”

It is a big production with 35 singers, many double cast for other parts, plus Museaus and a 30 piece orchestra.
The cast wear 80 different elaborate costumes created by Leslie Robison-Green.

 He noted the cast is 95 per cent university students plus a few community members. There are three leading ladies and there are a lot of double casted roles.
“There are also three parts for boys aged 11 and 112, so it has been a lot of fun working with them,” he said.

He is looking forward to the shows.

“ I hope people will  laugh. The cast is exceptional. There is a lot of joy. I hope people will leave with a lot of joy and feeling happy,” Hendsbee said.
Max Hopkins, who plays Capt. Corocan in the HMS Pinafore is excited to be part of his first U of L Opera workshop and Lethbridge Symphony collaboration.
“I’m just looking forward to being on stage with a  great cast acting and singing,” Hopkin said.
“And it is really fun to collaborate with the orchestra.”


Playgoers of Lethbridge play with a new path and cast in A Doll’s House

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Playgoers of Lethbridge will be playing in a Doll’s House at the Yates Theatre, Feb. 8-11.

A Doll’s House Cast are excited to perform at the Yates theatre. Photo By Richard Amery
 The Henrik Ibsen production is a little more darker that Playgoers of Lethbridge’s usual Spring production. But the cast and crew, who are mostly new to the local community theatre company are excited to try something a little more different.

“It’s one of these  scripts you always read in theatre school that a lot of ladies wanted to do because there are a lot of meaty parts for ladies,” said Victoria Nestrowicz, who plays Nora Helmer, the protagonist of the story.
“It’s one of the classic plays of the theatre, it’s a great role,” added Liam Monaghan, who plays Nora’s husband Thorwald Helmer.

 Playgoers is using a 1936 Thornton Wilder acting version of the play, which is about “Nora, the wife of a banker, Thorwald, has a secret debt, incurred with good intentions and a forged signature. When her husband is promoted to bank manager, the threat of blackmail threatens to destroy his career and their family life together. As circumstances unravel, Nora realizes the truth of her situation: she accuses her husband and her father before him of having used her as a doll. In one of the most famous scenes ever written for the stage, Nora slams the door on her domestic life as wife and mother until she can learn to be herself. The marriage of Ibsen's naturalistic style with Wilder's knack for emotional nuance creates a modern, vigorous acting version of this revered classic drama.”

The original play premiered in 1879.
“It’s a little different from what Playgoers usually does,” said Nestrowicz, who grew up with Lethbridge theatre.
“They are a Norwegian couple. It was written in the  nineteenth century so it has the strict gender roles typical for the time, so it is really is very patriarchal. He (Thorwald) is a banker and he has a wife. He really does love her, but he’s very stern,” Monaghan observed.

“Nora is a bit of a performer,” Nestrowicz said of her character.
“She’s trying to fit  into this role society has given her and she takes a risk. She borrows money, but hasn’t told her husband and tries to pass it off as her own. She wears masks on her perfect life ,” she said.

They are enjoying being part of their first Playgoer’s production.
“This is a wonderfully gifted group of actors and great people,” Monaghan said, observing everybody has jobs and family and are taking part in “A Doll’s House,” for the sheer joy of it.
“It’s been really fun psychologically figuring out these characters. They are really complicated and devious. And Nora has a meltdown, so that has been really fun to play,” Nestrowicz noted.
“And though the play was written in the 1870s, the issues in the play are 150 years old, but they are so relevant today. They teach us about humanity in 2017,” Monaghan added.
Director Juanita DeVos is impressed with how well the cast and crew have pulled the play together in two months of rehearsal.


Ron Chambers running playwriting workshop and Shakespeare in the Park auditions on Saturday

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University of Lethbridge drama  professor Ron Chambers is doing double duty at Casa on Saturday.

Shakespeare in the Park auditions are on Saturday afternoon at Casa. Photo by Richard Amery
 In the morning of Jan. 14, Chambers is teaching a playwriting workshop for Playgoers of Lethbridge, but  he’ll jump right from that to auditions for Shakespeare in the Park’s summer production of “A Comedy of Errors.”
 Chambers said nine people have enrolled in the playwriting workshop so far. It will begin at 9 a.m.

“I’ll begin by talking about a few practical concepts, then we’ll read  the plays and discuss them as a group. Hopefully the feedback from that will be useful to everybody. That’s how I teach my classes. The rest of the class learns from the feedback given to the other plays,” he said.

He asked participants to bring a five minute long piece to read with four or fewer characters and ideally copies for each character,though he noted photocopying may be available at Casa.

Chambers is also directing Shakespeare in the Park’s production of A Comedy of Errors. So he is taking advantage of being at Casa on Jan. 14 to hold community auditions for A Comedy of Errors. He is planning on another audition for university students later in the week and plans to do callbacks next Saturday.

“I want to have it cast the week after that. I like to have it done early. It gives time for Kate (Connolly, Shakespeare in the park’s artistic director) to complete grant applications and I have a play I’m directing at the university in the spring too,” he said.

 He is setting Shakespeare’s beloved comedy in the wild west.

“Shakespeare’s dead, he won’t mind us making a few adjustments,” Chambers chuckled.


Camille Pavlenko’s new play places in finals of international competition

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You may recognize Lethbridge actress Camille Pavlenko from her performances with Shakespeare in the Park, at Casa, doing a movement production for the Lt. Governors Ceremonies, or at the U of L and more recently with New West Theatre’s  presentation of “Luke’s Lunchbox.” Camille Pavlenko made the Top 11 finalists in the “Woodward International Playwriting Prize” competition. with her new play “These Moments of Shine: A Dokumentary.” Photo by Richard Amery

Her tall, lithe form, endless energy and impish grin are usually making you laugh. But she shows here more serious, thoughtful side in her new play, “These Moments of Shine: A Dokumentary.” It is among the top 11 finalists out of 300  entries from all over the world in the University of New Hampshire‘s “Woodward International Playwriting Prize” competition.

“It was very exciting and surprising because the other finalists are people whose plays I’ve read,” said Pavlenko, noting the winner will be announced at the end of January. She noted there is a production aspect to the top prize as well as cash and travelling expenses to go to the University of New Hampshire for workshopping and the mentorship of a dramaturge.

She was inspired to write “These Moments of Shine: A Dokumentary,” after watching Werner Herzog’s documentary “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.”
“It’s about four Siberian women  trying to make a documentary about themselves,” she said of her play.

“It was inspired by Werner Herzog’s documentary “ Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” about these Siberian trappers who have all of these traditional ways of trapping and making their own stuff, though they also have modern things like snowmobiles. I enjoyed it, but I asked myself ‘where are the women in it,’” she continued, adding she decided to write a play from the female perspective.

“So it’s fictional, but it is based on these people and their lives,” she added.
“And a lot of places in Canada look like Siberia. There’s similar landscape. it was winter when I started writing it,” she said.
It is also loosely inspired by her own family, who come from the Ukraine.
“I did a lot of research. But my grandmother, my Baba’s family is from the Ukraine, so she had a lot of stories. So I learned a lot from her,” she continued.

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