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New West Theatre holding open auditions for eclectic new season

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As cliche as it sounds, New West Theatre really does have something for everyone this season. After a successful fundraising campaign last year, the long standing local theatre group is on more stable financial footing so they can focus on what they do best — making people happy.

 There are open auditions for the upcoming season.

New West theatre is excited about their new season. Photo by Richard Amery

 

 Artistic director Kelly Reay is looking forward to the  slightly tweaked season.

 

“There really is something for everyone. There is definitely a range of emotions for audiences,” Reay said.

In the past, New West has put on music comedy revues in July as well as August.

“ Not since I’ve been here,” Reay said.

 

“ We decided to focus on quality rather than quantity this season” he said.

 

 The summer music comedy revue will be “ Wonderstruck,” running Aug. 9-26 in the Yates Theatre.

 This summer, popular children’s program “Hootenanny,” will be under the New West mantle.

 

“ We thought it needed a more official producing  body,” he said.

 

“It is a non ticketed event running in the Galt Gardens,” he said.

 

This year’s Hootenanny is an original play “There’s a Turtle In my Tub”  about curious and creative kid Mabel, who discovers the turtle Seymour in her bathtub and he needs some help crossing the vast ocean to go home.

The show, directed by Nicola Elson,  runs  July 5-29 at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday through Saturdays.

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Hatrix Theatre brings back The Foreigner

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Local theatre company Hatrix Theatre is revisiting the Foreigner, May 10-13 at McNally Community Centre.

“It’s the tenth anniversary of  our first performance of the Foreigner. It’s a lovely play,” said director Karolyn Harker.

Hatrix staged Larry Shue’s 1983 comedy 10 years ago. 

“ It’s fun and entertaining. But the play also has some important messages about the ability to change for the better and about the makings of friendships between people who didn’t expect to become friends,” Harker continued.

“They work together against a group of people who are greedy and power hungry,” Harker said.

Jocelyn Steinborn and Michael Dyck rehearse a scene from Hatrix Theatre’s May10-13  production of the Foreigner. Photo by Richard Amery

 

“The Foreigner” is about science fiction magazine editor, Charlie, who’s friend, army demolitions expert Staff Sgt Froggie LaSeur brings to Meeks Lodge in rural Georgia in the early ’80s to escape the stress of an ailing and cheating wife. Froggy convinces everyone Charlie can’s speak English so the occupants, a widow, a pregnant former debutante, a sinister minister and a Klansman will leave him alone.

 

“ Instead he hears a lot of deeply personal and sometimes alarming conversations he shouldn’t, and comedic mayhem ensues as Charlie helps them protect his new family and help them become better versions of themselves while acquiring a personality of his own,” Harker said.

 The production features a couple cast members from the first production including Richard Amery and Jeff Graham who reprise their roles of Ellard and Owen respectively.

 

“We have a wonderful cast. We have two people from the original cast and several new actors who have to drive long distances to give us the benefits of their great talent,“ she enthused.

 Maren Coates, playing Catherine and Michael Dyck who plays Staff Sgt. Froggy Laseur come in from Fort Macleod three times a week for rehearsals and Jocelyn Steinborn, who won the best actress award and best director in the Chinook One Act Play Festival this year with Taber Players comes in from Taber.

 

 The cast also includes newcomer Brent Cutforth playing ‘the foreigner’ Charlie. he was also in the Gazebo last year. Local theatre veteran Vittorio Oliverio plays David.

 

Jocelyn Steinborn has wanted to be part of the Foreigner since Taber Players put it on, also in 2013.

 

“I was just a grunt, the assistant director when Taber Players put it on. I loved it, so I jumped at the chance to play Betty,” Steinborn said.

 

“ I feel Ms. Meeks was once strong and vibrant, but after years of financial problems and after losing her husband, she’s in an existential slump, but the foreigner arrives and gives her joy and purpose,” said Steinborn of her character.

 She  loves the script.

“It’s funny. These are innocent, simple folks. It doesn’t make fun of them,” she said, adding  she also loves Betty’s belief in ‘Charlie.’

 Maren Coates plays ex-debutante Catherine. She  saw the Carriage House Theatre  put on “The Foreigner” and wanted to be involved.

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Playgoers showcase Southern Alberta arts at A Taste of the Arts

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Playgoers of Lethbridge celebrated their one hundredth anniversary with a two day extravaganza of Southern Albertan artists at the Yates Theatre/ Sterndale Bennett Theatre, April 21 and 22.

 

Joel Bhaskaran, Darrell Croft and Teresa Huszar in A Dog’s life at A Taste of the Arts. phot by RichardAmery

They featured a little bit of everything running throughout the two days on both stages and workshops in the mezzanine, where there was also a historical display of memories of Playgoers from through the ages.

 

David Mikuliak plays one of MacBeth's witches at A Taste of the Arts. photo by RichardAmery

There was lots of dance from local youth dance companies, Troyanda Ukrainian Dance, local jazz bands, some film , a performance from the Father Van Tighem Performing Arts, Métis Jigging, hoop dancing, Lethbridge community Taiko, the Southern Alberta chorus and even acts for children and families

I only caught a few of the acts.

 

As expected there were plenty of plays.

All three entrants from the Taber Players reprised their plays from this year‘s  Chinook One Act  Drama Festival. The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance  Society offered a taste of Shakespeare, and Lethbridge Musical Theatre performed Ed Bayly’s Priscilla Pringles’ Predicament.

 

 I missed most of Friday, but made a point of catching the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society.

hey  offered up a  menacing version of the witches scene from MacBeth featuring some familiar faces including David Mikuliak and Jeff Carlson.

 

 They also played a brief scene from Othello.

 

But the best part was getting a sneak preview of this summer’s  production of Taming of the Shrew.

 

 Though the summer production will be set in the ’60s, they put on a traditional version of the immortal Kate and Petruccio wooing scene featuring the actors who will be playing Kate and Petruccio this summer.

I got there relatively early  on Saturday to catch part of a children’s show with the Band Formerly  known as Karen, Lewis and Pam featuring Ash Thomson, Gabe Thaine  and Jillian Bracken backed by upright bassist and drummer Brad Brouwer. They played a few Sharon, Lois and Bram songs and  a few of their own children’s songs. Rufus the mime was in the audience silently cheering them on and getting the kids to participate.

 

Taming of the Shrew at A Taste of the Arts. photo by RichardAmery

 I  took part in  a stage fighting workshop which was a lot of fun and very informative, but cut it short because I didn’t want to miss  the return of “ A Dog’s life, which was my favourite One act.  Darrell Croft reprised his award winning role of Ben, the old hobo dog.

 As a bonus, Teresa Huszar stepped into the role of cute, naïve puppy Ginger. It’s always a pleasure to see her on stage.

Ryland Moranz and Mickey Hayward looked a little worse for the wear during their headlining set with bassist Kurt Ciesla.

 

 As always Moranz was an affable and captivating frontman, playing his always uplifting songs on banjo and guitar. He added a couple of harp solo.

 His fleet fingers flew over the frets in between telling jokes and stories about  touring Europe and playing songs from his last album  XO 1945.

 

He added couple new songs he wrote during the pandemic with only his wife as the audience.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor

The band Formerly Known as Karen, Lewis and Pam at A Taste of the Arts. photo by RichardAmery
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Brent Butt returns to his roots in stand-up comedy

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Comedian Brent Butt has a lot on the go, but he always returns to his roots as a stand-up comedian.

 

 The Corner Gas creator and star performs a sold up stand-up comedy show at the Yates Theatre, Sunday, April 23. Though Butt is best known for  Corner Gas, he has been doing stand-up a lot longer.

 

He has his first novel coming out in October, surprisingly not a comedy.

“Well I wouldn’t say I’m on the road again, it’s an ongoing concern,” said Butt from his Vancouver home.

“At the end of the day, when you boil everything away, I’m a greasy nightclub comic, right, so I hit the road any time I’m not in production. I’m trying to get on the road and do stand-up. That’s the way it’s always been. Even in between seasons of Corner Gas, as soon as we were on hiatus I would go out on the road.”

Comedian Brent Butt returns to Lethbridge, Sunday, April 23 for a sold-out show. Photo submitted

 

Butt is always writing new material, but there are always older bits that people want to hear, so he gauges the audience’s reaction and adjusts his set accordingly.

 

“I always try to make it a mix of both. Because what I learned is sometimes  I’d go to a place a do all new material and people would storm up to me mad as a hornet  afterwards and say I brought my friend down here   to hear you do such and such a bit. I’ve been doing stand up comedy for 30 years and I can’t do everything on every night but I try to make it sort of a mix and a blend of newer stuff that I’m working and some sort of classic staples in the act. I never really know what I’m going to do when I go out there. That’s one of the things I like about stand-up comedy is that it’s very reactive. I know what I’m going to open up with and depending on how the audience is responding, that sort of dictates the direction that I go and what material I start pulling out of my tickle trunk. Because I kind of have a grab bag of material I’ve collected over the years. Like if I’m  doing some sports jokes and they’re not going over  that great, I ditch the sports jokes and go into something else, But if they’re going over great then maybe I’ll pull out a couple more sports jokes,” he said.

 

“So you kind of shape it. Every audience is different. It’s its own entity. Once you get several hundred individuals in a room it creates a brand new animal. The chemistry of it creates a brand new animal that has never been there before and you don’t know what it likes and what it dislikes and that’s one of the things that still excites me about doing stand-up,” he said.

“When I’m waiting in the wings,  waiting to be introduced , standing there, I don’t know how it’s going to go I don’t know how they’re going to let me rub their belly. Are they going to bite me what’s going to happen,” he said.

One beloved bit people ask for is  abut  what he’d do if you’d win the lottery. And how if he was a billionaire, it would make him go a little crazy.

 

 Another bit people ask for like the bit about model Fabio getting hit in the face with a goose while on the rollercoaster aren’t as timeless, but still gets a lot of requests.

“That’s one of the bits that people come up to me mad that I didn’t do that and the Fabio bit. That bit’s like 20 years old now. People come up ‘ you didn’t do the Fabio thing.’ That’s not in today’s headlines,” he said.

 

 Butt is working on new material, but nothing specific.

“There‘s nothing specific. I couldn’t sit here and say I’m focussing on this. It’s always just little nuggets. Little nuggets that you pull out, tumble them around and see if you can get them to germinate into something. There’s no theme.There’s nothing thematic, it’s just stuff dribbling out of my head,” he said.

 Butt discovered stand up comedy when he was a boy growing up in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, particularly the Alan Hamel show.

 

“The first time I ever saw stand up comedy when I was 12 -years-old. I was watching. They used to have the old Alan Hamel Show come on in the afternoon. We only had two channels growing up in Tisdale and one of them was CTV and in Vancouver they had an afternoon talk show called the Alan Hamel show. And they would sometimes have comedians on there and I’d never heard of a stand-up comedian before. I’d seen sketch comedy and sitcoms, and I was a fan of funny things. But when they said ‘and featuring stand up comedian Kelly Monteith, I was very intrigued by that. What’s a stand-up comedian? And I saw this guy walk out, Kelly Monteith, and just talk and be hilarious. And I thought that’s it for me. I didn't know that was a thing somebody could do and I told my mom that day that I wanted to be a stand up comedian,” he said.

 

“And she said  fine go do it outside. That was her standard response to anything I wanted to do,” Butt laughed.

 

In addition to Corner Gas, the animated version of Corner Gas, Butt also finished his first novel— a thriller called “ Huge” 

 

“ I did. It’s not a comedy. That surprises some people. It’s about comedy. It’s about three comedians on the road. It’s actually a dark psychological thriller. It follows  three comedians out on the road, two of whom do not have a disturbing capacity for violence. It’s just based on first  starting out in standup going out on the road. Sometimes you  have to go out on the road with people you don’t really know and you’d be a couple days into the gig, driving across Northern Ontario in the middle of the night, listening to this person and you’re thinking to yourself am I safe? Am I going to be killed out here by this guy who clearly isn’t thinking properly. So that’s the feeling I wanted to capture. That’s the type of  book I like to read. I like to read thrillers. I like to read books that kind of scare you a little bit. I like classic murder mysteries and procedurals but I really like if a book has a scary element to it that’s what I like to read. So when I sat down to write a novel, that’s what I wrote,” he said, adding the book will be released  Oct. 3, but it is available for pre-order now through Hugethenovel.com.

 

He gave the book to a few writers he really respects for feedback.

“It hasn’t hit the market yet but the from advance readers. Some people I know who are both writers, like authors who have written thrillers and crime novels, the response has been really good. And some people in the TV and  film industry who have read it just to see what they think of it and the feedback has been fantastic including some people that I really look up to,” he said, adding he love authors like Stephen King, Linwood Barclay and Shari Lapena.

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