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New West goes western in Barn Dance

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 New West Theatre turns Yates Theatre into a Barn Dance, Aug. 8-26.

Kyle Gruninger spins Kathy Zaborsky around during a version of Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight” during New West Theatre’s presentation of Barn Dance, running Aug. 8-26 in the Yates Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery
 “It’s called Barn Dance and it’s a celebration of contemporary country music, going back to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ heyday to really contemporary like Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood,” described director Jay Whitehead.

“ We‘re in Southern Alberta where country music is very popular. So we think audiences here will really enjoy a country show,” Whitehead continued.
 The show includes the usual crop of country hits, choreography, singing, dancing and comedy.

“There is a lot of country  hootin’ and hollering,” Whitehead said.
“I love working with Jay. He]s a Calgary boy, so he has a great feel for contemporary country,” said cast member/ vocal director Kathy Zaborsky.

 The cast includes some familiar faces including Zaborsky, Erica Hunt, Kyle Gruninger, newer faces AJ Baragar, Rylan Kunkel, Shelby Wilson and newcomer Andrea Bailey.

 Kathy Zaborsky is excited to not only perform in Barn Dance, but also to handle vocal direction as well as arrange several of the songs with guitarist Scott Mezei.

“We’ve been apprenticed to arrange a couple of the songs for the show including Carrie underwood’s ‘Cowboy Casanova,’ ‘She’s In Love with the Boy’ by Trisha Yearwood, ‘Fancy’ by Reba McEntire and “City of New Orleans’ by Willie Nelson,’ so that‘s been an interesting challenge,” Zaborsky said.

 As a bonus, she welcomes old friend Andrea Bailey into the Fold, who she met in Canmore  in 2012 while working on the musical  ‘O Canada Eh’ and have been friends ever since
“Kathy called me up and said they needed a student,” said Bailey, who returned to school to earn her education degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

“So I leaped at the opportunity,” she continued.


Coutts Arts Centre Arts Festival equals fun in the sun near Nanton

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Shakespeare in the park’s production of A Comedy of Errors was one of several performances during the Coutts Arts Centre arts festival, July 23, just outside of Nanton.

A good sized crowd relaxed  in the sweltering sunny Sunday day, Jordan Payne gets ready to perform with Shakespeare in the park's Comedy of Errors. Photo by Richard Ameryenjoying a variety of performances.

 I always enjoy Lethbridge Jazz combo the Groove Apostles., so was glad to have caught them.

 They began with a set of upbeat instrumental jazz which gave everyone a chance to solo.

Dale Ketcheson at the Coutts Centre Arts Festival. Photo by Richard Amery Shelby Wilson joined them on vocals to sing a variety of  R and B and soulful hits including  The Four Seasons (Oh What A Night) December,1963) and Carole King’s “I Feel Earth Move.”

 Classical guitarist Dale Ketcheson and percussionist Joe Porter set the mood for Shakespeare by performing an array of gorgeously picked classical melodies, some dating back to the 1600s.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat EditorShelby Wilson perfoms with the Groove Apostles at the Coutts Centre arts Festival. Photo by Richard Amery

Windy Castle Medieval Faire features Middle Ages fun for all ages

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Take a step back in time with the Windy Castle Medieval Faire, July 29 and 30 at the Coyote Flats Pioneer Village, just outside of Picture Butte.

 The Faire was inspired by Michelle Couper’s visit to the Brook Medieval Faire. She soon recruited  Juanita DeVos to help organize  a medieval Faire near Lethbridge.

The Lethbridge Medieval Club will be fighting and teaching at the Windy Castle medieval Faire, July 29-30. Photo by Richard Amery
“She went there for a day and said she’d love to build a hay bale maze. And as soon as she said she wanted to do a Medieval Faire, I said ‘count me in,’” DeVos said, adding ironically, the hay bale maze will be pretty much the only  attraction not happening at the faire due to  the bales they wanted to borrow for it being in too poor quality to move twice.

“ If you shoot for the moon, you will at least reach the clouds. Some ideas have been derailed. Not all of our ideas have come to fruition,” DeVos said.

So there will be a variety of  attractions for  all ages, including bouncy castles for age 6-11, 12-18 and another for grownups, a medieval feast including jousting from jousting organization Tilt and Lance, medieval sword fighting demonstrations and lessons, games,  an adventure filled carriage ride in the coulee, bards, storytellers, the Lethbridge object manipulators, jugglers,  crafts, plenty of people in medieval costumes, vendors and artisans of all sorts. There will even be a tavern featuring a special brew created by Coulee Brew for the event, plus mead and a singing bartender.

“We might even have archery dependingJuanita Devos is Excited about  the windy Castle Medieval Faire. Photo by Richard Amery on the wind,” she said.
“We even have a psychic. She knows how many people will be there, but she won’t tell us, which is unfair,” DeVos chuckled.

 There will be a treasure hunt as well, where participants, will be given a program and a list of clues for them to follow. In addition there will be a photo contest and photo booth
“Michelle said the number one rule was it has to be fun for everyone including the volunteers. I was reading a book about Walt Disney, who said  your staff is your most important  asset. If they’re happy,  everybody else will be.’ The volunteers only have to work four hours and then they can enjoy the faire,” DeVos said, adding they still need more volunteers.

“We can’t do an event like this without volunteers,” she said.

She noted they have received a lot of support from the community including Kapow Comics, who have been selling tickets and the Lethbridge Medieval Club, who will be a big part of the Faire, holding martial arts and medieval combat demonstrations as well as teaching some of the simpler techniques to those interested.


Shnoogy helps kids cope with feelings in Kindling Kindness

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 The world could use a cup of kindness yet, so Lethbridge based artist and writer Constance Douglas created “Kindling Kindness,” a program designed to help kids recognize their feelings and choose “love over fear” courtesy of the characters “Shnoogy” and “Krudy.”Constance Douglas with Shnoogy and Krudy of Kindling Kindness. Photo by Richard Amery
“ It‘s about making the world a better place one act of kindness at a time,” said Douglas, noting the characters’ origins go back several years.

“In 2006 I was in a children’s hospital in Phoenix and saw all of these sick kids. I wondered how I could represent love, so they could see it and demonstrate it, so I created Shnoogy,” Douglas said, noting Kindling Kindness is targeted at children aged 4-8.

“Then I created Krudy, who is just grumpy, lonely and not happy,” Douglas continued.

“They (people) have both those feelings but have to choose which one will be part of their experience,” she continued.

“Then, I became ill with MS and lost the ability to paint and I began to feel helpless like those kids. I had all of these blank canvasses and when I could paint again, it became my only purpose to help these kids,“ Douglas said, noting her paintings became the basis for Kindling Kindness, an adventure book “The Doodle Trap,”  a workbook starring Shnoogy and his friends plus Krudy which can be found on Amazon. She also brings Shnoogy in to schools, has designed and created individualized capes for the characters and created stuffed animals of them.  She even wrote a Shnoogy rap to go along with the story, featuring local performer Juran Greene.

“He was kind enough to record it and I’m working on an audio book with (New West Theatre veteran) Erica Hunt.”

She was born in Lethbridge and moved to the United States, living in Arizona and California and moved back to Lethbridge in 2015 to help care for a good friend who was diagnosed with cancer.
She even named her dog “Shnoogy.”

“I was wondering what to call this character and my last  dog always wanted hugs. I was always telling him ‘Are you looking for your shnoogies? ’ and it turned out to be the perfect name for the character,” she said.

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