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Fort Whoop Up under siege by Drama Nutz

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If you hear gunshots  and cannon fire echoing over the coulees,  every Friday and Saturday beginning this Friday, don’t worry, it’s just Fort Whoop -Up under attack by Fred Kanouse and his whiskey trading band of scoundrels.

Don’t call the police though, Cst. Tabor (Terry Edwards) apprehends Fred Kanouse  (Jon MacBurnie). Photo by Richard Amerybecause Northwest Mounted Police officer Cst.  Arthur C Tabor, Fort Whoop Up manager David Akers and his friends already  have things under control. Because in the world of theatre, the good guys almost always win.

Siege at Fort Whoop-Up is a production of local improv group Drama Nutz in conjunction with  Fort Whoop -Up which runs every Friday and Saturday from July 24 to Aug. 28.

 It features some familiar faces and several newcomers.
“I’ll say it again and again, never let history get in the way of a good story,” said Drama Nutz director David Gabert , who also plays Dave Akers in the production, adding all of the characters are based on real historical characters, though the events transpiring are fictional.

 The play takes place in 1877 at the wedding of  Marcella Sheran (played by Bev Stadelman) , older sister of Fort Whoop Up coal mining mogul  David Sheran (played by David Adie), and Fort Macleod area rancher Joseph MacFarland (played  by Richard Amery). The wedding is unfortunately timed as Cpl. Tabor ( Terry  Edwards) has just apprehended murderer Fred Kanouse (Jon MacBurnie) and Kamouse’s men are planning a jailbreak.

 The actors are using real rifles and pistols, filled with real black powder ammunition (firing blanks of course). All of the actors completed and passed a government  gun safety training course.
 Calgary’s Guns of the Golden West add extra firepower.
 To make each show unique, all of the dialogue is completely improvised.Fred Kanouse (Jon MacBurnie) holds Marcella (Bev  Stadelmann) hostage. Photo by Richard Amery

“Rather than writing a script, we wrote detailed character descriptions. Fortunately I’ve  had the honour of working with four or five members of the cast before. We found when you add extra elements, like guns, you don’t know what is going to happen, guns jam and safety becomes paramount ,” Gabert said adding a written script can quickly go by the wayside.

“We’re interested in  portraying interesting events rather than  the characters, which we admittedly don’t know a lot about. We’re bringing the Fort to life , so to speak, and using theatre is a great way to do that,” he said adding the Siege evolved from previous activities at Fort Whoop -Up including  the ‘Wild West Weekend.”


Country comedy a highlight of New West Theatre’s ‘Rockin’ the Rodeo’

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Grahame Renyk is a personable MC for ‘Rockin’ The Country.’ Photo by Richard  AmeryNew West Theatre has a trimmed down cast and energy to spare as they rock the rodeo this month at the Yates Theatre.

The nine member cast performs one of their typically entertaining  variety show ranging from spine tinglingly beautiful to campy upbeat dance numbers, superb vocal harmonies and a lot of quirky comedy.
 The show  opens with an upbeat dance version of Alabama’s “Mountain Music,”  which gives the whole cast a chance to shine.

There are many highlights of the show, not the least of which is Ife Abiola — a new face to New West, though not new to Lethbridge’s drama and music community. He adds a lot of soul to traditional country music.

He was not only a highlight as the straight man in a couple of sketches but added a lot of soul to Conway Twitty as well as  did a credible job of Paul Brandt’s “Alberta Bound.”

He also sings  a pretty mean Toby Keith, singing a superb version of “How Do You Like Me Now.”
Abiola has been seen in the University of Lethbridge’s production of ‘Hair,’ among other things.
Jessica Ens and Jocelyn Haub  sang a beautifully sassy version of Terri Clark’s ‘Girls Lie Too.’ Haub’s solo performance of Taylor Swift’s ‘White Horse,’ was a highlight as well. She was backed only by guitarists Kelly Roberts and Scott Mezei.

 Haub also played well off of Grahame Renyk, who was an affable and personable host  during the farm themed news portion of the show.

 In honour of the Eagles,  a highlight of the first half of the show is a  superb medley of Eagles’ more country hits including ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling,’ and ‘Take It Easy,’ which is spearheaded by  New West veteran Scott Carpenter, who changes  the lyrics to reflect the four women in the cast, dancing and singing backup vocals. Carpenter was hilariously as always, he was having some fun laughing maniacally while rigging the 50 50 draw much to the crowd’s amusement.


New West Theatre rocks the rodeo

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New West Theatre has gone country for their latest production,  ‘Rockin’ the Rodeo,’ which  runs July 2-24.Jessica Ens and Ife Abiola are helping rocking the rodeo, July 2-24. Photo by Richard Amery
“We did a country show a few years ago. This one came about due to audience interest,” artistic director Hanson said adding New West Theatre receives a lot of audience feedback and does their best to accommodate their requests.

“We had requests to do another country music show, so we thought it would be great to do something to appeal to hard core country music fans,” he continued adding the music runs from Buck Owens to Taylor Swift.

“We wanted to keep it accessible to mainstream audiences. We’re fortunate country music is at the roots of a lot of pop and rock  music today. There’s lots of crossover. Like the Eagles, who have one of  the top selling album of all time, had country roots.”

Like most New West shows, comedy is  a big part of the production.
“Comedy and country music have always coexisted on shows like Hee Haw and the Grand Old Opry,” Hanson observed adding both  relate to ordinary people and ordinary experiences.
“So there should be lots of laughter. I think the audience will really enjoy themselves.”
 Performer Fred Hillyer is glad to be back with New West  after taking a break for a couple years. He is especially looking forward to the comedic aspect of the show.

“I always look forward to the comedy and I helped write some of it. Plus we have some of the original comedy veterans working together in the sketches. Kelly Roberts is there and he’s definitely one of the funniest people   I know. And Erica (Hunt) is  always great and Scott (Carpenter) is always funny,” he continued adding the cast is what he missed the most about being away from New West.


Importance of Being Earnest auditions coming up

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If you want to have some fun with  one of the oldest amateur theatre groups in Canada,  then get involved with the Playgoers of Lethbridge’s February production of Oscar Wilde’s hilarious comedy ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’
Auditions for the production take place June 28-29 at the Bowman Arts Centre at 7 p.m. each evening.
Playgoers are looking for five male and four female actors in an age range from the 20's to 60's
They are also looking for anyone interested in becoming part of the crew (set painting, set construction, costuming, make-up, stage hand, props, etc)
The Importance  of Being Earnest is a witty outlook on the Victorian upper class, exposing a world of shallow indifference to true love. Young Jack and his good friend Algernon find themselves in a ridiculous situation after their fiancées learn they are coincidentally engaged to the same man. A glorious rendition of mistaken identity, Wilde's play is sure to get people of all ages and social class grinning, if not realizing themselves the importance of being earnest.
Everyone is welcome to attend the auditions.
 — By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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