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Undertow Theatre Collective “Proud” to present political satire as first show

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A new Lethbridge theatre group is “Proud” to present their first production at Casa, March 9,11 and 12 at Casa.DJ Gellatly and Derek Stevenson are proud to presnt Proud at Casa this week. Photo by Richard Amery

Undertow Theatre Collective, founded by DJ Gellatly, Meredith Pritchard and Derek Stevenson will be joined by Cole Fetting in Michael Healey’s political comedy “Proud.”

“We had a fun and different goal,” said s Derek Stevenson, taking  advantage of a relatively slower time in his duties of New West Theatre’s general manager.

“We all really wanted to be on stage more and we wanted to  play to our strengths, which is comedy,” he said.

“We really wanted to bring people out and make them  part of the show. We wanted to do interesting plays in interesting spaces when we stumbled upon “Proud” and we really wanted to do it for our first show,” Stevenson said.

“Proud” is a 2011 Michael Healey penned satirical comedy inspired by Stephen Harper’s majority government.
“ It’s a satire inspired by  the 2011 Stephen Harper government, though it isn’t really directly about  it,” he continued.

“It’s very topical,” added DJ Gellatly,” who plays the prime minister.
The play takes place shortly after the Conservatives win a majority government when the prime minister discovers a secret weapon in his caucus – Jisbella Lyth, a single mother with a limited understanding of her role as a MP. Using her ignorance to his advantage, the PM hatches a plan to have Jisbella front and centre in a campaign of misdirection and distraction. Her son, played by Cole Fetting reflects on the experience from 15 years in the future.

“It’s an interesting perspective having that character narrate from 15 years later, though he is mentioned in passing in the play,” Stevenson said.


Ammena Dance Studios celebrates one last dance at World Explosion of Dance

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It has been a long run, but Lise -Ann Talhami, owner of Ammena Dance studios is  saying goodbye with one last dance– the last World Explosion of World Dance at the Yates Centre, March 3-4.Lise Anne Talhami’s last Explosion of World Dance is sure to be a blast, March 3 and 4. Photo by Richard Amery

There are a number of reasons it’s the last one. The landlord is turning the space I was using  as my studio into condominiums,” said Talhami, who opened the Pink Swan Boutique downtown in November.

“ And I’ve been doing this for a long time, 14 years, by myself. I’ve been trying to find someone to help, but haven’t found anyone. It’s been a lot of work,” she said, adding it has also been a lot of fun befriending her dancers. So the Last World Dance Explosion will send Ammena off with a blast.

“I’ve got 123 adults and my kids— 25 of them. Last year we had a circus theme. This year the theme is jet set. It’s a good way to say it’s over,” said Talhami, choking back a few tears.
“ There will be quite a few people who were in the first show, performing in this one,” she said.

 The show will encompass a variety of  dance styles, beginning with a Broadway piece, followed by Showgirls, dance hall, several African dances, burlesque, Bollywood, contemporary dancing, belly dancing, hip hop and a Beyonce piece plus Redfoo’s ‘Juicy Wiggle”.

This show also includes more men performing.
“We used to have guys in the Latin dances, but we have more guys this year,” she said. The show will also feature pianist Kate LaRocque
“The finale is every style I’ve ever taught,” Talhami said.


North American premiere of the Curing Room marks Pretty, Witty and Gay

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Theatre Outré continues to push the boundaries with their new production, the Curing Room running Feb. 27-March 3 in the basement of Ten Thousand Villages instead of their usual home in Club Didi.

Jay Whitehead is excited to bring the Curing Room to Lethbridge as pard of Pretty , Witty and Gay. Photo by Richard Amery
“It‘s Incredibly powerful. It explores humanity at it’s basest,” said Jay Whitehead, who performs in the story of seven Russian soldiers captured in Poland during the Second World War and kept in the basement of a monastery.
“It’s based on real life events. It’s about seven Soviet soldiers who are captured and are locked naked in the basement of a monastery. So we’re nude for the entirety of the play. But, not to spoil anything, not all of them make it out,” said Whitehead, who noted they decided to move the play to the new location to better fit the characters’ situations.

“It’s quite exposing,” Whitehead added, observing the Curing Room has been a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“It becomes quite gruesome by the end to say the least. It’s visceral and impactful. But it’s also humourous in places,” he said, noting it is definitely not a family friendly show.

Gail Hanrahan directs the 90-120 minute long 2011 play penned by New York based actor/ playwright David Ian Lee. It features Whitehead, Graham Mothersill, Stuart MacDougall, Marek Czuma, Grayson Ogle, AJ Baragar and Connor Christmas.

 Whitehead has worked with all of the actors except Stuart MacDougall either at the university or with Theatre Outré.

Whitehead said Theatre Outré chose to perform the Curing Room for a couple of reasons.

“It’s part  of our ‘stripped down’ series, which explores nudity and cultural hangups about it. And we always wanted to partner with Theatre BSMNT in Calgary and this play suited both our mandates,” he said. After they are finished the Lethbridge run, they will take the play to Calgary.
“It’s also the North American premiere of the play, though is performed in Europe,” he added.


U of L relives youth with The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook

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When Star Wars exploded onto the silver screen in 1977, it became not only part of many a young boy’s collective consciousness, but it became a part of pop culture at large and continues to this day.

 The University of Lethbridge’s Feb. 14-18 production of Stephen Massicotte’s 1997 play “ The Boy’s own Jedi Handbook,” explores the effect Star Wars had on two boys’ imaginations and their futures.The Kid, Colin Bluekens uses the force to dodge an object tossed by James (Daniel Perryman) during rehearsals for A Boy’s own Jedi Handbook, running in the David Spinks theatre, Feb. 14-18. Photo by Richard Amery

“ Essentially it follows the life of a character called the Kid and looks at how his childhood was affected by the first two Star Wars movies. So he recreates parts of the Star Wars films and how they relate to his life as a grown up,” said director Jeremy Mason, adding the two boys, played by Colin Bluekens as the Kid and Daniel Perryman as James,  try to become Jedi Knights.

“ It’s a feel good, coming of age play that people who grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s  will come away feeling very good about,” Mason continued.

They play opened Feb. 14 for close to a sold out audience.

In addition to an impressive performances  from “The Kid” Colin Bluekens, who is on stage the entire show and impressively delivers 120 minutes of text and his best friend “James,” Daniel J Perryman, who ably shows the duo’s growing bond over Star Wars, numerous other supplementary characters are played by  the always impressive Shelby Wilson and Kathryn Bullock. Much of the play shows how The Kid and James bond by reenacting various scenes from the first two Star Wars movies , bounding all over the stage with childlike enthusiasm.

 The ladies play a variety of classmates, siblings, mothers and teachers in the first part, but come into their own as the would be girlfriends of the oblivious and proud young dorks in the second act,  in which the Kid and  James have grown into young teenagers, excited about the release of the Empire Strikes Back.

Wilson is especially as enjoyable  as The Kid’s teacher and director of the Kid’s first play, “ A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Her facial expressions hilarious as usual, even playing as simple a character as the exasperated mother, tolerating her children’s exuberant and endless raving about the first Star Wars movie, without muttering more than three words. She does a great turn as Darth Vader as seen through the Kid’s eyes, confiscating notes passed in class.

Bullock is simply adorable as the determined first girlfriend of the Kid.
“There is a lots of energy and lots of fun. It’s a feel good show,”  Mason said, adding you don’t have to have grown up in that era or even be a Star Wars expert in order to enjoy this show.

 There are plenty of Star Wars scenes and in jokes like “In the version we play, Hans shot first,” as well as a few nods to the future like who will Leia fall in love with— Han or Luke? Choosing the David Spinks Theatre is an excellent choice as it provides a more intimate experience, as if you are just hanging out with the Kid and James in their back yard, camping out with them being kids together and reliving Star Wars scene by scene. The set features numerous movable pieces, switched around by the cast to reflect different settings like home, the schoolyard ,classrooms, recess, a roller disco rink and their back yards. The stage is set in the second act to look eerily like the Millennium Falcon.

“It’s a main stage play and we were offered the University Theatre. But It was first developed as a play for Fringe Festivals so we thought it would be better for the audience if it were in the David Spinks Theatre,” observed Mason, who played the role of “The Kid” in a production of the play nine years ago. He is excited to return to Lethbridge to direct “A Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook,” in between splitting time between projects in Calgary and Edmonton.

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