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Ron James — a man of a million words and a million laughs

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Ron James is a smart man who uses a lot of million dollar words in his comedic routines. More than likely you’ve seen his stand up routine on the Comedy Channel and on his popular new CBC television show.

But more importantly, he is a funny man who will be bringing the funny back to the Yates centre for two shows, Dec. 4-5.Ron James comes to the Yates Centre, Dec. 4-5. Photo Submitted
“I just flew into Calgary and now I’m wrapped up in blankets protecting myself from this Venusian  cold,” noted James in an early morning interview during a November cold snap, kicking off an amicable  half hour conversation covering everyone from  the sold out crowd bundled up and shivering through the CFL Western Finals, the fall of the American dream, to how complacent Canadians are in their deference to authority, to why Bob Saget can fill concert halls and a lot f Canadian comedians can’t.

“ I went to a public school and then got a bachelors degree in history from university. I graduated with a  BA in history and a minor in binge drinking. But university is also where I learned how to communicate as well started my belief that I could be an actor,” he said adding he honed his comedic craft with the renown Second City improv comedy troupe in Toronto.

“I learned that if I was going to be a success, I’d have to do it on my own, not as part of some group,” he said adding in 1993, he also spent three years in Los Angeles  working on a sitcom that ended up failing, but it  gave him plenty of grist for the comedic mill, which was incorporated into his first comedy special.

“ I just like how language trips off your tongue. I make observations. But you always try to remember what the audience is paying for — and that’s laughter,” he continued.

“I like to tell stories, but  what you don’t realize  is how well crafted they are because you lose yourself in the story,” he continued adding he loves coming out west, mainly because one of his first comedy specials was “Quest For the West.”
“It’s always fun going to Alberta  and talking about Tories. Alberta is only province where the only opposition to a conservative party is another conservative party,” he observed adding he was impressed with how many people bundled up to go to the Western finals CFL football game.


Spring Awakening explores timeless subject matter

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While times have changed a lot since 1891, the basic issues facing teenagers  have not. That is the Director Jay Whitehead shows a model of the Spring Awakening set. Photo by Richard Amerymessage behind The University of Lethbridge production of Frank Wedekind’s play “Spring Awakening,” which takes place at the University of Lethbridge Theatre, Nov. 23-27.

“It’s very creepy,” described director Jay Whitehead noting it is basically about a group of 12-14 year olds coming of age and who are experiencing their sexual awakening through  exploring their bodies and each others’ while the adults, parents and teachers  do their best to prevent it with disastrous results.

“Our concept is very surreal,” Whitehead said, adding the stage is dominated by a gigantic 20 foot chair. It, along with the extensive use of masks, adds to the surreal aura of the production.

“We have two deaths in the play. Two young people die because of the way this has been manifested and another one of the characters ends up in prison,” he continued adding the only characters who nothing tragic happens to, is the gay couple.

Whitehead said the play, written in 1891 was way ahead of it’s time. It was so controversial it wasn’t even staged for the first time until over a decade later.
“I like plays with a social conscience. I like plays that allow people to think. I just liked the drama of the subject matter and the  bravery of the characters,” Whitehead continued adding though  it is a drama, he has modernized the production with new music and choreography  by New West Theatre veteran Jessica Ens. He has also punched up the comedic aspects of the play.


Dilemma film premiere features Dean Selena

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Dean Selena had an excellent set  of music to open up the premiere of local writer/ director Gianna Isabella’s new film “Dilemma,” Nov. 5 at Average Joe’s.

They played a tight set of Radiohead tinged ambient rock originals with plenty of  energizing drumming and groovy bass.Dean Selena playing  the Dilemma film premiere, Nov. 5 at Average Joes. Photo by Richard Amery

 The film itself, which was partially filmed at Average Joes, is a gripping 15 minute short about a British girl  “Abby” who feels a little lost in her life and visits her cousin in Lethbridge,  where she ends up getting into a fatal altercation at a local bar where she ends up accidentally killing a man.

There isn’t a lot of dialogue in the film as Isabella prefers to let the filmography  and the acGianna Isabella and some of her crew address the crowd at the premiere of Dilemma. Photo by Richard Amerytors’ facial expressions, especially Camille Pavlenko, who plays Abby,  tell the story, along with  Abby’s thoughts and observations of life inside her head.

The crowded, sweaty club scene sets the mood and the tone for the drama to unfold outside.

I don’t know what to make of the murder scene, there is a punch and the victim looks surprisingly peaceful as he hits the ground. 

 She has to decide to stay or go and decides to go, ending with the line — “My mother always told me to tell the truth — but what would you do?” It is a pretty scary and moving“dilemma.”

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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Lethbridge Musical Theatre brings Kiss Me Kate to the Yates

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Sometimes life imitates art, sort of. Such is the case of  Lethbridge Musical Theatre’s upcoming production of the musical “Kiss Me Kate,” which takes the stage  at the Yates Theatre, Nov. 5-20. Kiss Me Kate is a reunion of sorts for several New West Theatre veterans who are excited to work with director Jeff Carlson again.Erica Hunt and Scott Carpenter read through their lines. Photo by Richard Amery

“Usually Lethbridge Musical Theatre rehearses  for eight weeks, but I wanted to cut rehearsal time down to four or five weeks. So I called in favours from everyone I know, including my dad, ” said Carlson, whose experience directing  “Kiss Me Kate,” sort of mirrors that of the production’s protagonist, Fred Graham (played by Scott Carpenter). Fred is trying to stage a musical version of William Shakespeare's’ “Taming of the Shrew,”  which is threatened not only by the turmoils of the bitterly divorced leading man and leading lady who are performing opposite of each other as Petruccio and Katherine, but also a pair of gangsters interrupting the production to collect a gambling debt from Lucentio.

“Fred wrote a musical version  of Taming of the Shrew and calls in every favour he can including getting his ex-wife to play Kate. Then he realizes he has feelings for the leading lady who plays Bianca. That’s when the confusion starts,” Carlson described adding the play takes place in the 1950s so there are not only 1959’s costumes, but Shakespeariean costumes as well.


“To add to the insanity,  all hell breaks loose on stage during the production when the gangsters show up to break legs and collect the IOU and end up on stage. And then the leading lady quits,” he continued adding choreographer Vanessa Cowan and  vocal director Darrell Croft have been an invaluable part of pulling this production together.
“They‘ve done an amazing job,” said Carlson who  also had to cope with his election campaign in the midst of everything.

“ The biggest challenge, was at the first rehearsal at the beginning of September, only 50 per cent of the cast showed up, so I called in favours from all of my pals. Erica (Hunt) was already involved and Scott (Carpenter) agreed to do it. Fred Hillyer was a late call. Even my father is involved. He asked if I needed anything  and I said well ...  And now he’s playing Pops, the stage manager. It’s come together well considering we open in 10 days (from the time of the interview),” he continued adding there are 25 people on stage including nine leading roles and a 15 person chorus.

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