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New West Theatre ready to rock ’50s and ’60s style in new show “Live At The Drive In”

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New West Theatre, like every theatre company has had to adapt to  a post- Covid world.
 So this year‘s summer production is a limited run ’50s and ’60s show  “Live At the Drive In,” at Exhibition Park, Aug. 12-16.

Patrons will have a full drive in-experience,  they will drive their cars into the Exhibition Park parking lot, park inNew West Theatre is “At the Drive In” at Exhibition Park Aug. 12-16. Photo by Richard Amery front of the stage and tune their radios to a special station to listen. The cast are on the same stage  that acts perform on during The Rotary Dragon Boat Races and Canada Day celebrations, but there are also video screens on each side offering a close up view of the cast.

“It’s all been pretty exciting, and a challenging experience,” said director Kelly Reay, noting in addition to having to put together  the multiple pieces of a show, they have also had to figure out the logistics of getting cars in and out of Exhibition Park.

“Never would we have imagined we‘d be doing a drive in performance. But luckily Alberta Health has some pretty specific guidelines we’ve been able to follow. And safety has been our number one priority,” he continued, noting the cast and crew are tested for Covid regularly.

“We’re also lucky we’re a cohort. We’re like a family,” he said. Patrons can also  roll their  windows down and are welcome to cheer and honk in appreciation.
 Cars will be parked 10 feet apart and the small six person cast are perform apart on stage. They will be performing pop and rock hits of the ’50s and ’60s ranging from Paul Anka to Bill Haley and the Comets.

“It’s the American Graffiti era. This show is more of a concert experience than a performance. It’s not the same as performing at the Yates, so there isn’t as much physical comedy. There‘s more joke telling,” he continued, adding that doesn’t mean the jokes are at about the ’50s and ’60s.

“There are a lot of jokes about that era, but there is a lot of contemporary humour. We couldn’t not do jokes about the Covid issue.”
 The cast included familiar faces including Scott Carpenter, Katie Fellger, Kyle Gruninger, Erica Hunt, Rylan Kunkel, Kathy Zaborsky and musicians Scott Mezei and Keenan Pezderic.
 “And the cast also play musical instruments,” Reay added.


Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society winds up season with Merry Wives of Windsor at Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens

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Covid-19 has pretty much crippled entertainment as we know it. But it has lead to artists experimenting with new ways to get their art out to people.

Most theatre companies hJenna Lowe as Falstaff in Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Richard Ameryave gone online or broadcasted through social media. The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance society has also done that, but they were also first out of the gate to have a live performance of this summer’s production of the Merry Wives of Windsor.

 The dozen cast members performed in front of a live audience once this summer and finished their season with a sold out performance of the Shakespeare farce at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, Aug. 6.

 I forgot how much I missed live theatre, and even more, being part of the troupe.

 So I joined the sold out audience of 75 at the Gardens, who were laughing and chuckling throughout the comedy.

 The talented cast, some playing multiple characters performed director John Poulsen’s abridged reader’s theatre version of the comedy.Cole Fetting in Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Richard Amery
 The cast as the audience sat six feet apart from each other.
 The cast switched costumes and wigs as well as  cracked Shakespearian dirty jokes as the audience laughed appreciatively.

 There were a lot of familiar faces including highlight’s from last year’s production of Macbeth including Trevor Loman, the always beaming Chelsea Fitzsimmons and veterans like the scene stealing Cole Fetting, Chris Kyle Peterson, Jeff Graham and Andrew Legg.


New West Theatre exploring the realm of radio plays

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New west Theatre is  still here. But instead of being on stage at the Yates Theatre, they are on the air performing old school radio plays for the next two weeks.
 They air Thursday nights at 8 p.m.New West Theatre artistic director Kelly Reay. Photo by Richard Amery
“We’re still here and though people can’t interact with us face to face, we still want to interact with our audience,” said New West Theatre artistic director Kelly Reay.

 Last week, they debuted  their first night of classic Alfred Hitchcock plays.
 They continue in  the Hitchcock vein tonight with “ The 39 Steps” and Sherlock Holmes’  ‘Murder at the Casbah.’

“ ‘The 39 Steps’ was written as a radio play to perform on stage. So if we were performing it live, we‘d have a set that looks like a radio station,” Reay said.
“And ‘ Murder at the Casbah’ is a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery, that is solved like only Sherlock Holmes can,” he continued, adding they just finished recording next week’s production of ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” sandwiched between two episodes of Flash Gordon.

“Those have been a lot of fun to do, looking at science fiction through the eyes of  the 1930s,” he said.

People who want to hear the shows can e-mail New West Theatre and they will be sent a link.

 Most of the plays have been public domain and will be available through the public domain, except the Hitchcock episodes.

“ They were on our website for a few days because we could only air them for a specific window. The public domain shows will be up for longer,” Reay said.

Like all theatre companies, they are experimenting during Covid.



Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society lends a laugh with Merry Wives of Windsor online

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Shakespeare performed in a pandemic, so The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society plans to  perform  during the Covid 19 crisis— one way or the other.
 As Covid safety protocols have been lessened, The 12 actors had their first read through on Thursday of John Poulsen’s reader’s theatre version of the farce the Merry Wives of Windsor, for an online presentation of the production on July 3 at 7 p.m., to be filmed at the Gate.

Chelsea Fitzsimons returns to play Slender in Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Richard Amery
“Thursday was an unmitigated disaster, wasn’t it,” asked Poulsen asking for confirmation from a few of the actors trickling into the Gate for rehearsal.
“But Friday was a lot better. So it was a mitigated disaster because we learned a lot. Though everyone left feeling kind of bummed. All 12 actors stayed. They were willing to experiment,” he continued.

The first read through was also a test of whether they would be able to use Zoom to broadcast, but ran into a few technical issues, so they tried an alternate approach during Friday’s rehearsal and moved to a two camera strategy for Saturday’s rehearsal.

 The end result is there will be broadcasts on Youtube as well as the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society Facebook page on July 3, 11 and 17 most likely from the Gate Church with a limited audience of 50. There may be future broadcasts added this summer including possibly at Galt Gardens.

 They also have a couple of performances scheduled for the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, though the official date is to be announced.

“Shakespeare performed during a pandemic (the bubonic plague in 1603-1613, during which London playhouses were shut down 60 per cent of the time) and he went on the road with his troupe and wrote plays. I think he rewrote Romeo and Juliet during it,” Poulsen said.

“This could change the way we do things in the future,” Poulsen said.

Poulsen has written several reader’s theatre adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays including Merry Wives of Windsor.

“Part of my job at the university is research and I found 50 per cent of kids really hate Shakespeare and the other 50 per cent love Shakespeare. So I wrote a 25 minute reader’s theatre designed to fit in a high school class and a 45 minute version.

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