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Playgoers of Lethbridge celebrating 100 years with a Taste of the Arts this weekend

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Playgoers of Lethbridge is celebrating their 100th anniversary by giving the community a taste of the arts this weekend.

 There will be workshops, performances, film and a chance to dance and sing at the  Yates Theatre and Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22.


Mayson Merkle, Cole Fetting and Jaclyn Elfring perfoming in  Alternative Accomodation. photo by Richard Amery

“ Move between the two venues, stay for the day or come and go. The longest performance is 45 minutes. So come and see what you like and maybe learn a little about Playgoers’ history,” said Nancy Purkis, Playgoers of Lethbridge Board member and one of the festival‘s organizers.


 Planning the two day event has been in the works  for a year when Playgoers started applying for city, provincial and federal grants to cover the costs of the event and to ensure that everything is free to attend and to ensure the performers receive an honorarium.


“ It’s certainly snowballed,” Purkis said, adding they had to submit a tentative schedule to apply for the grants, so Playgoers was pleased the Lethbridge arts community answered calls through the Allied Arts Council and on social media.


 The opening ceremonies at 5 p.m., Friday, April 21 and plaque unveiling featuring speeches by Mayor Blaine Hyggen, Playgoers of Lethbridge president Elaine Jagielski and Dr. Mike Bruised Head, has been moved inside due to concerns about the weather.


“The Southern Accord Chorus are going to sing Happy Birthday to Playgoers at 5:50 in the Yates Theatre. And The Lethbridge Big Band will be performing  “Going Up” from the first musical comedy Playgoers of Lethbridge ever did,” Purkis continued, adding local dance companies including Beyond Limits will perform and provide an opportunity for the audience to dance if they desire.


One Act Play Festival features Taber Players talent

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Playgoers of Lethbridge hosted the  Chinook Region One Act Play Festival, Saturday, April 8 at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre. But The Taber Players showed their talent, providing all three entries for this year’s festival.

Mason Merkle, Cole Fetting and Jocelyn Steinborn in Alternative Accomodation at the One Act Play Festival, April 7. Photo by Richard Amery

  But there was plenty of familiar faces from previous playgoers of Lethbridge  and Lethbridge Shakespeare in the Park Productions acting in the plays.


 Julia Cho’s “ The Breakup” was their story of a daughter trying to break up with her overbearing  mother. It amounted to be basically a monologue about mother - daughter relations from Teresa Huzar who was adorable as  Lil, and small but vital parts played by Angela Renner as mama and Cole Fetting as Lil’s boyfriend Jason.

 By the end Lil realizes she misses her mama and indeed that she may be turning into her.


Pam Valentine’s “ A Dog’s Life” was a touching, and heartwarming story about  four dogs in the pound talking about their owners and their lives leading up to  their  residence in the pound.


Darrell Croft, Angi Heninger,  and Annie-Jo Lee in A Dog‘s Life at the One Act Play Festival, April 7. Photo by Richard Amery

 Darrell Croft was amazing as the old, road wearied hobo’s dog Ben. He deservedly won the best male actor award for his performance, which combined perfect pathos with humour.

Talented young actress Annie Jo Lee shone as the over-excited and naïve puppy Ginger. Mason Merkyl was fantastic as the snobby, spoiled ,overweight puppy  Fifi and Joel Bhaskaran stood out as standoffish German Shepherd guard dog Fritz. 


The four brought out the human characteristics of their canine characters. Kadence Ridley and Warden Angi Henninger provided the actual human element enhancing the canine stars.


Another Pam Valentine play “Alternative Accommodation” won best play for this festival and Jocelyn Steinborn won best female actor for her performance as  harangued  and under appreciated mother Anne, of her self involved children: yuppie financial advisor Peter played by Cole Fetting,  hyper-motivated business woman Joy played by  Jaclyn Elfring and religious housewife Gemma played by Mayson Merkle. 


Teresa Huszar in The Break Up at the One Act Play Festival, April 7. Photo by Richard Amery

 The story is about the  grown children discussing whether to move their mother into a seniors home after their dad dies, but without discussing the issue with her.


Drama ensues as Steinborn  puts on a fantastic performance tearing her kids a new one and proving that she is doing fine on her own.


Director Jaclynn Elfring won best director for the “Alternative Accomodation.”


Anybody who has elderly parents should see it. And they will get a chance to during the Provincial  One Act Play Festival, May 26 and 27 at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre which Playgoers of Lethbridge hosts.

 — By Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor


Quaint, Quirky and Queer helps Theatre Outré celebrate 10 years

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This years Quaint, Quirky and Queer festival has a cornucopia of good times as the cornerstone of Theatre Outré’s tenth anniversary, April 6-22.

 So to celebrate, Theatre Outré welcomes a variety of acts, several old freinds and two major productions happening at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Good Times Comedy Club and Did’s Playhaus.


Theatre Outré has been hosting Quaint, Quirky and Queer for over 20 years even before Theatre Outré was founded to showcase Lethbridge artists, particularly LBGTQ artists.

“The space that Theatre Outré has created in Lethbridge is really, really rare and really, really precious,” said actress Ash Thomson.


DJ Rabbyt stars in  How To Make Electronic music as part of Quaint Quirky and Queer This Year. Photo by Richard Amery

“I know, for myself, having this community of people has sort of given me strength to challenge some of those really common social narratives.”


Quaint, Quirky and Queer has evolved from a one night cabaret/ variety show to a two week long festival this year.


“There will be something happening almost every day. I think we only have three dark days,” said David Gabert, who has been involved with Theatre Outré since 2016. He stars with Ash Thomson in improvised tragicomedy “ No Way Out.”


There are two feature presentations bookending this year’s festival. “How to Create Electronic Music” is a theatrical music experience coming back to Theatre Outré after a sold out run in February created by Deonie Hudson and Lyndsay Labreque, aka  DJ Rabbyt .

“We both came down with Covid over the Christmas break and we created it then,” Hudson said.

“ How to  Create Electronic music” runs April 6-8, 2023 at  8 p.m. every night at Didi's Playhaus - 517a 4th Ave S.  It is about music lover Megan who has decided she wants to learn how to create music and be a DJ. She orders Rabbyt's course to learn the ways of her musical hero. Rabbyt guides Megan through the five steps to becoming a musical mastermind. 


“ It’s very visceral,” Gabert said.

The show combines several of Labreque’s passions— electronic music and  multi-media.

“The screen is in front of my and I’m performing behind it,” Labreque said.


“ It’s about  electronic music, but it’s also about the arts as a way of life,” Hudson said.

“I found a way to blend acoustic and electronic instrumentation, and smash it together with my background in visual effects to create an exciting, emotional and perhaps a slightly educational experience," Labreque said.

“ No Way Out” is a popular improvised tragicomedy created by  local improv troupe Impromptu.


“ It”s different every night. We take audience suggestions at the beginning of the show  and choose one. But the audience doesn’t know which one we’ll be doing,” he said.

 Gabert and Thomson.


The cast features David Gabert, Ash Thomson, Erica Barr and Greg Wilson plus special guests each night including Jay Whitehead, Katie Fellger and more to be announced.

“It is about two siblings who have a conversation that there is no way out of,” Gabert summarized, noting they have explored a variety of  serious topics in previous productions of the show.

 Gabert and Thomson improvised a scene about a discussion between the brother and the sister about the sister coming out to their dying father at the media call for the event..

“ But that won’t be part of  the show,” Gabert said. 


U of L explores relationships and technology in TomorrowLove

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The University Of Lethbridge explores love, sex, technology and the future in four short plays  directed by four different directors including by Gail Hanrahan who will be retiring soon.

 TomorrowLove runs March 14-18

“This production will be my last show at the University of Lethbridge as a faculty member before my retirement,” said Hanrahan in a press release.

 “I’m really enjoying this process where our emerging directors are leading the processes more. And certainly, this entire production is about the students,” she continued.


“TomorrowLove” is a selection of four short plays written by Rosamund Small about love, sex, technology and the future. Audiences are immersed in four possible futures where technology and humans connect and collide.
”When director and Drama Department faculty member Gail Hanrahan began reading the collection of plays contained within TomorrowLove, she was drawn to the possibilities and challenges that putting on the production would present.

“I thought this would be very interesting for our students because each play has just two characters. The actors would be challenged to develop their characters on a much deeper level,” Hanrahan said. 


Jesse Thibert playing Addison (blue shirt) and Parker Hickerty playing Pat (orange shirt) in “Perfect” Photo submitted

“The playwright created characters she said could be any gender, which would really open up possibilities and opportunities for our directors and actors to explore each script.” 

Hanrahan selected four plays from the collection, choosing to direct “Evidence”, and invited student and alumni directors to direct the other three short plays. 

“It was really important to me to work with these emerging directors, who have already been doing excellent work in our theatre community,” says Hanrahan.
Alumni Anastasia Siceac (BFA ’20), director of “Reality Hurts”, along with Jordyn Nixon (BFA ’21), director of “Eight Legs Two Hearts” return to their ULethbridge theatre roots. Current student, Kacie Hall, director of “Perfect” and intimacy director of “Evidence” caps off her student experience directing a Mainstage show before she graduates this spring. 


“ Tomorrowlove is actually a bigger collection of plays than what we’re doing. They’re all by Rosamund Small. They all focus on the idea of human relationships and the impact of technology. So we’re looking at the impacts of technology that has on on human connection  and on human nature. So the ones we picked delve primarily on romantic relationships. Though we do have one about a set of strangers who are brought together by technology,” said  Hall  in provided footage. She directs the third play in the series “ Perfect” 


“So I’ve really been thoroughly enjoying it just because it’s really nice to think that connection doesn’t have to change just  because technology does. That humans a lot of times will stay the same. And there’s things  that I relate to  with every single one of these characters because of that,” Hall continued.


“I’ve been truly fortunate to have really wonderful actors and I’ve told them time and time again that they’ve  really bring this story to life. And this story is really near and dear to my heart. it’s very special. I won’t give too much away, but there’s really nice representation in it that doesn’t often get to be seen in media in general let alone live performance. And my actors have done such a fantastic job in taking so much care and consideration and compassion with this story. I’m just really excited for people to seem them bring these characters to life,” she said. 

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