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U of L revisits Agatha Christie classic the Mousetrap

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The University of Lethbridge is excited to present Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnit “ The Mousetrap,” Feb. 13-17 at University Theatre.
“ That’s exactly why we’re doing it— it’s a classic,” said director Dr. Shelley Scott.Cole Fetting and Colin Bluekens rehearse a scene from the Mousetrap, running at the University of Lethbridge, Feb. 13-17. Photo by Richard Amery
“ And it’s a contrast from the more experimental and avant-garde theatre that we have done in the past,” she continued.

“We’ve tried to respect Agatha Christie’s work. Each of these characters have their own unique stories,” she noted.

“ It’s a classic whodunnit where you try to guess who the murderer is,” she continued.

 She noted her cast has gone beyond and above the call of duty.
“We‘ve got a couple of actors who have never been involved in a main-stage theatre production and others who are veterans. They are all a very dedicated  and committed cast. They’ve spent a lot of time outside of rehearsals working with each other. And Cole (Fetting) has to do an Italian accent, so he‘s been working with Doug MacArthur as a dialogue coach,” she said.

The cast includes some familiar faces including Cole Fetting who has been involved in numerous community theatre productions as well as university productions including “Nothing left to Burn” last year.
“Playgoers of Lethbridge did the Mousetrap eight years ago and I was assistant stage manager for it,” observed Cole Fetting, who plays Paravicini.


Auditions for LSCO fundraiser Titanic-the musical tonight and tomorrow at LCI

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Fran Rude and Ken Rogers are excited to present “ a story that never dies” as a fundraiser for the LSCO.

Fran Rude is directing Titanic: The Musical. Auditions are today and tomorrow. Photo by Richard Amery
Auditions are tonight and tomorrow, Feb. 5 and 6 in the LCI Choir room for the October production of Tony Award winning Titanic the Musical,  7:30 - 9:30 p.m.

“The Titanic sunk in 1912 and 106 years later people are still talking about it,” noted director Fran Rude, emphasizing the musical has nothing to do with the famous Leonardo di Caprio movie.

“It’s based on the book “ A Night to Remember. So all of the characters on stage are people who were on the ship,” she said, adding  34-37 cast members will be required.

“We could have a cast of thousands for this performance. There is also a 34-60 person choir on stage who represent the other people on the ship and a 27 piece orchestra on stage who have been handpicked by (musical director/conductor) Ken Rogers,” said Rude, who collaborated with Rogers on their very successful 2016 LSCO fundraiser of Jesus Christ Superstar.

“Jesus Christ Superstar was very successful. The LSCO provides essential services. The organization has a very special place in Lethbridge. All of the money raised will go towards programming. So we‘re happy to help them out,” she said, adding they have most of their backstage crew already arranged. Plus last year the LSCO supplied 91 volunteers for Jesus Christ Superstar.

"Titanic - The Musical" is the Tony winning story of the unsinkable ship and its maiden voyage, which won Tony awards for best musical, best book and best score. The story and music are not based on the James Cameron movie. The musical runs Thursday - Saturday, Oct. 17-20, 2018 at the refurbished Yates Theatre. There will also be a matinee on Sunday, Oct. 21. Rehearsals will begin in mid-August.


New cast ready to make you laugh with Playgoers of Lethbridge’s dark comedy “Beyond a Joke’

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Playgoers of Lethbridge is revisiting an old friend for February— Derek Benfield’s British comedy “Beyond a Joke.”

Stephanie Wickham and Aaron Tyslau rehearse a scene from Beyond a Joke, running Feb. 6-10 a the Italian Canadian Club. Photo by Richard Amery
 Instead of a main stage production, which was how the long standing community theatre group performed the play 10 years ago, this time it will be performed as a dinner theatre in the Italian Canadian Canadian Club (1511 St. Edwards Blvd. N), Feb. 6-10.

“We did it 10 years ago as a main stage production,” noted director Elaine Jagielski.

“But we decided to do a dinner theatre because the Yates/ Sterndale Theatre is closed for renovations. We always do well with dinner theatres,” she added.

In addition to a new venue, they also welcome a mostly new cast including Rob Berezay as Andrew; Jocelyn Steinborn as Jane; Aaron Tyslau as Geoff:  Stephanie Wickham as Sally;  Jaclynn Elfring as Sarah; Kevin Reedyk as the Vicar: Marcie Stork as Audrey and Howard Pearson as Edgar.

 While most of them are new to the Playgoers of Lethbridge stage, they are not new to the stage.
“We have two from Coutts, one from Milk River and one from Taber. So they performed in Taber and Milk River and we have university students. One of them hasn’t been on stage, but has been an extra in movies like Fargo,” she said.
 Marcie Stork has been in numerous Playgoers of Lethbridge productions and Taber actor Jocelyn Steinborn was in “Always a Bridesmaid” in 2016.

Most of them come in from out of town and have been braving winter roads for rehearsals.

“One of them works out of town and comes in for rehearsals. They haven’t missed one of them,” she said.
“They’ve been great. They’re excited. There’s really great energy in this cast,” she enthused.

“My favourite part is the energy of the cast. They’re really dedicated. We have a lot of fun but we also get a lot done,” she said.
Jagielski is looking forward to working in the Italian Canadian Club.
“It’s a larger venue and a different venue. it’s also a different meal,” she said, noting dinner will be an Italian dinner of Penne Marinara, Caprese salad, Chicken Masala with roast potatoes and vegetables and Prairie Berry pie for dessert.
Jocelyn Steinborn is enjoying being part of her second Playgoers of Lethbridge production as Jane.


Lethbridge people escape winter by working on cruise ships

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 When Old Man Winter is spitting snow and dripping ice and Mother Nature is howling her head off with her chilly voice, one’s mind wanders to sandy beaches, cool breezes, palm trees, squawking seagulls and exotic locales.
 So what better way to escape a Canadian winter, than working on a cruise ship and seeing the world for a couple of weeks, maybe even months.
 Several Lethbridge people did just that.

 Kyle Gruninger, who returned home to Lethbridge for a few weeks in December to perform with New West Theatre, spent much of the last year playing the perfect gig for a musician— singing on a cruise ship.
 “I started off in Australia and spent four months cruising on the south Pacific,” said Gruninger, in between New West shows, noting musicians have to do whatever possible to eat, and found working cruise lines to be an ideal fit while waiting for a record deal for his band Incura to come together.

After the show “Starlight” ended, he got on board a Carnival cruise ship, which is currently cruising around the Caribbean.Sheena Lawson enjoyed working  in the spa on a cruise ship. Photo by Richard Amery
But after the Australia  tour, he caught other ships sailing out of New Orleans, Long Beach, California and Mobile, Alabama.
“They went to many different places,” he said, noting all he had to do was sing, so he was able to get off the ship and see  the sights.
“You can walk to your gig and then walk back home after it. It really is a dream gig. You don’t have to drive anywhere either,” he said, noting he sang with a variety of different musical combos on the ship including everything from rock bands to musical revues similar to New West Theatre shows.
“It was pretty rigorous. I’d usually be singing from eight to midnight every night. I’d be singing everything from classic rock, disco, pretty much all styles,
“When I wasn’t singing, I got to get off the ship and go cave tubing and scuba diving,” he said.
“But you can’t get sick and you can’t stop. I’d play theme nights like ’80s nights, I’d sing in acoustic duos and solo as well. There was lots of different styles of music. it was definitely a lot of work,” he continued.

“But it was really a pleasure  to do it. Just being a singer was brilliant,” he said.
 He noted he took full advantage of a trip to New York several years ago to audition for a variety of productions and decided to apply to Carnival while he was there.
 Two years and and lot of work later, he got the call to work on a ship.
“I auditioned for three shows while I was there,” he said.
“Now I’ve been on five ships in the past two years,” he enthused.
Sheena Lawson, who often performs with the Herb Hicks Jazz Quartet, also spent most of 2017 on a cruise ship, but went about it differently— she got a job working with British company, Steiner Leisure, working in one of their shipboard spas and parlayed that into a side gig singing on board ship.

“Steiner has spas on 160 ships” she observed, noting it took her about two years of patience and a lot of work, not to mention her own money on flights to Britain for training, before she got accepted to Southampton based P & O Cruise line operating  out of Australia.Kyle Gruninger performing with New West Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery
She was impressed with the diversity of the employees.
“The guests were mostly Aussies and Chinese people,” she said.

“There were a lot of Filipinos working doing laundry and housekeeping. There were some Americans, but also a lot of East Indians, Sri Lankans,  South Africans and a couple of us from Canada— one videographer from Toronto and another person from Vancouver,” she observed.
“ There were also three musicians from Canada. They had agents, who got them that gig,” she said, noting she soon made friends with the musicians, who eventually let her sing with them, which turned into a paying gig.
“I brought my charts with me,” she said.
“So I got to do some performing and was hired by P & O,” she said.
 That made an already long day even longer.
“I’d have to be at the spa at 7:30 a.m. when we‘d have to pick up the laundry and then do an hour of training because training is really important,” she said adding they’d pressure the spa workers about making sales quotas.
“We’d have about seven guests a day for approximately an hour and 15 minutes,” she said, noting she also got a lot of exercise.

“There were a lot of stairs. Our quarters were on deck three and the spa was on deck 14,” she recalled. She noted she was lucky with accommodations.
“There were only two people in my room. I was sharing my room with a fitness instructor, who worked next to me in the spa.  Some of the others had six to a room in bunk beds,” she said.
She observed the Filipinos controlled things for the staff who made a little extra money on the side.
“They have a thing called the Filipino mafia. If you needed something fixed you’d pay them and they’d fix it for you,” she noted, adding most of them were working to send money home to their families.Though they weren’t mafia in the traditional sense of the  term.

“There is a zero, zero tolerance for physical violence and fighting. Even verbal abuse,” she said.
 She noted ships are different. Some have more classes than others.
“On the first ship, crew weren’t allowed up on the passenger deck without  a name badge and uniform. It must have been two weeks before I discovered I had deck privileges,” Lawson said, noting crew had their own bar to socialize in.
“We’d always meet at the crew bar after work. Some people were on board for six months and others for five days, so somebody was always  leaving the ship, so we’d all meet there to say our farewells,” she said.
 She also got to do some exploring in between shifts.
“The spa would be closed during excursions, so we could go in them too as long as we were back by 2:30 p.m. when the spa opened again, she said, adding she got to explore a lot of Australia including Sydney, New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia and numerous island nations.

“A lot of the crew went snorkelling, though I had no interest in snorkelling,” she said.
She did a lot of research before applying to work on the cruise ship, finding where most of her crew mates applied.
“It took me about two-and-a-half years cost me about $3,000— about $5,000 including flights. They really want to make sure you want to work on a cruise ship,” she said, adding once she was accepted they’d pay for the flight to the port where their assigned ship was docked.

 She noted she’d like to work on another cruise ship and was offered a contract in December, but she turned it down to take care of family business.
“Though it was very tempting when it‘s -50 with wind chill,” she said.

Newlyweds Jocelyn  and Devon Brayne had a perfect honeymoon they got a job sailing around the Caribbean, working with Disney Cruise Lines.
“Disney Cruise Lines had the first open casting call  in Calgary in 10 years, so a group of our friends got really excited about it and went up because we all grew up loving Disney. Devon went along begrudgingly because he didn’t want to be away from home that long, because character contracts are quite a bit longer at nine months. He was the only one who got cast,” related Jocelyn Brayne, noting her husband was cast as a good friend of both Goofy and Captain Jack Sparrow.
 “Then we went looking for jobs that I was qualified for on and until we found one,” related Brayne, whose naturally bubbly and outgoing personality  ended up best suited for a job as entertainment hostess.
“They wanted people with two years  experience with a microphone, a background in entertainment and  in customer service, so that was  me,” she enthused.

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