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Playing the part of history in the Shadow of the Bridge

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I was part of history this week by taking part in the In the Shadow of the Bridge Festival, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the high level bridge, Sept. 5.
 In addition to taking in some excellent entertainment, I got to get back into acting as a wandering character coal miner and newspaper editor for the Allied Arts Council’s special program.
 I’ve done a fair amount of acting in  other places and I’ve been an extra in a couple movies like Legends of the Fall, but there is  a definite high one gets from actually performing live.  It was a lot of fun walking around the grounds  and meeting some of the people  and telling them my story based on a brief outline submitted to us by the Allied Arts Council who had organized the event really well.
  I spent the past couple weeks researching coal mining circa 1909, and found a couple factual errors in our dossier and had to improvise around them,  for example my coal miner  named George Nilesen was supposed to have worked for  the North Western Coal and Navigation  Company, but moved out here in 1904  for a better life and more money with  his wife Evelyn and two children. However the Northwestern Coal  had been amalgamated into the Alberta Railway and Coal Company by Elliott Galt by then. My “wife” played by New West Theatre’s Kathy Zaborsky got together beforehand to co-ordinate our story. We decided the neighbours were taking care of our kids while we enjoyed a day out, and that our company owned miner’s shack was located right on the plains next to Fort Whoop Up, and my mine was right down the hill from the grounds, next to Whoop Up Drive. We also decided our ambition was to own a ranch closer to the mountains and out of the wind because mining was too dangerous and we didn’t want our kids growing up in the mines, like I did back in Nova Scotia. We had a good day, we rode the miniature steam train doing a circuit around the grounds and even went for a horse and cart ride, which put me into the pioneer mindset while giving me an appreciation for  the comfort of an automobile.
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Improv “In the Shadow of the Bridge”

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If you like “Who’s Your Line Anyway,” then don’t miss the Desperate Jesters’ improv set at the “In the Shadow of the Bridge” festival, Sept. 5  next to Fort Whoop Up.
 The Jesters are one of several local musical and dramatic acts performing from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. including  Leon Barr, the Lethbridge Playgoers, Joshua Fritz and Bridgette Yarwood, Leah Sadler, Dave McCann and the Firehearts and Hippodrome among  others.
Founding Jester Jeremy Mason noted the improv troupe formed in 2005 then took a bit of a break in 2007 after several of the members sought acting careers in bigger cities like Vancouver and Toronto.
“We’ll perform a lot of the games like they do on Whose Line Is It Anyway and  will make up scenes based on suggestions from the audience,” said Mason, who has had a busy summer as the new general manager of New West Theatre and has been working with Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod as well. At their peak, they were doing four or five gigs a month — usually corporate functions.
“There’s not  really many other groups in Lethbridge doing what we do,” Mason said, adding Drama Nutz also does corporate gigs, but Desperate Jester is the only group focusing on improv. The four members performing at  “In the Shadow of the Bridge” at 4:45  p.m. and  6:45 p.m. are looking forward to the event.

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Hobo poetry with Sonis McAllister

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Sonis McAllister and the Barracuda Orchestra.Sonis McAllister and the Barracuda Orchestra is Lethbridge’s answer to the Polyphonic Spree, which apparently included former members of the popular Dallas band. The orchestra, dressed as turn of the century carnies, laid down a jazzy groove, while McAllister tapped out a rhythm on an old tin pipe and wandered through the crowd with a megaphone reciting his beatnik inspired poetry about carnies turned stockbrokers, hobos and other crazy cats  he has met on the road.
“A few of us were part of the Polyphonic Spree before they made it big,” said Dallas transplant, McAllister adding he was fired by bandleader Tim DeLaughter after being in the collective from 2001-2003.
“We’re the anti-Polyphonic spree,” McAllister said adding he was hoping to push the collective into more spoken word, similar to what he is doing with the Barracuda Orchestra.


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Variety of performences help Allied Arts Council celebrate the bridge’s 100th birthday

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The Allied Arts Council is helping Lethbridge  celebrate the 100th anniversary of the high level bridge, Sept. 5 with a diverse line up of local musicians and actors who will help make  the “In the Shadow of the Bridge Festival” a successful festival for families.

“We feel it’s a significant  landmark for the community,” said Allied Arts Council communication co-ordinator Lindsay Meli.

“We wanted to showcase the diversity of the entertainment  and artists that the community has to offer. There‘s something for everyone.”

 The LCI jazz band will kick off  a day full of performances on a stage next to Fort Whoop Up at 10:45 a.m. in the shadow of the bridge. The Blackfoot  Ambassadors are on next at noon. Other performers included the Hungarian Trio, Leon Barr, the Playgoers of Lethbridge’s revamped production of their  stalwart standby, “Priscilla  Pringle’s Predicament or All’s Swell that ends Swell”, (please see separate article) Bridge City Barbershop, Desperate Jester Improv, Dave Renter, The Ammena Dance Company, Leah Sadler, O’Reely, Dave McCann (See separate article,) the Fire Spinners, Hippodrome and Soup of Flies. (Check the listings page for exact times).

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