Can you remember your first experience with live theatre?
Whether it was an amateur performance put on by a community theatre group or a professional production running in a purpose-built venue, it is hard to deny that there is something magical about live theatre.
When the lights are dimmed and the curtain goes up, you can feel a unique kind of energy and you become part of it — caught up in the emotion of a moment.
Alberta has an active and thriving theatre scene and summer is a good time to re-experience the magic of live theatre or to introduce theatre to younger family members.
Many children and teens get the opportunity to read and study Shakespearean plays in school, but few have the chance to experience the plays performed live — the way they were meant to be seen.
An Alberta theatre adventure has something to offer the entire family and there is no better time than summer to experience the thrill of live theatre. Here are a few suggestions for theatre adventures to consider throughout the province this summer.
It’s hard to learn to love Shakespeare if you have only read his work in books. Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen and heard and while you can learn a great deal from studying and reading, it is far more difficult to feel the meaning of the words without the sound of the dialogue, the sights of the stage and the energy from the audience.
Red Deer’s The Bard on Bower, a Prime Stock Theatre presentation, will stage Macbeth (opening July 26) and The Taming of the Shrew (opening July 19) at Bower Ponds. Audiences for Bard on Bower are advised to bring their own lawnchairs, blankets and mosquito repellent. A beer tent will also be available on Saturday and Sunday nights.
Admission is by donation.
The Taming of the Shrew is on from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on July 19, 20, 21, 25, 29, and Aug. 2. It will also run from 2 to 4 p.m. on July 28 and Aug. 2.
Macbeth is on from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on July 26, 27, 28, Aug. 1, 3 and 4. It also runs from 2 to 4 p.m. on July 29.
Calgary’s Shakespeare in the Park (www.mtroyal.ca) is celebrating their 25th season with a staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Prince’s Island Park from June 27 to Aug. 10. The cast will include Theatre Calgary professionals and students from Mount Royal’s Theatre Arts diploma program. The show runs from Wednesday to Sunday (weather permitting) at 7 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. and is ideal for even young theatregoers. Admission is “pay what you can.”
In Edmonton, the Free Will Players is a not-for-profit theatre company that has been operating the Freewill Shakespeare Festival (www.freewillshakespeare.com) in Hawrelak Park for more than 20 years. This year, they will be performing Julius Caesar and The Tempest between June 26 and July 22. Shows run nightly at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Pay-What-You-Will performances are on Tuesday evenings. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $17 for students and seniors and are free for children under 12. A festival pass will cost $40.
Fringe Theatre has grown into an international phenomenon that attracts tourists and theater buffs to various festival cities worldwide. This form of theatre is particularly popular in Canada where the oldest and largest non-juried fringe theater festival in North America can be found in Edmonton.
“The great thing about the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is that you can find shows you won’t see anywhere else,” says Ross Bradley, a self-proclaimed theatre junkie who has attended the event every year for more than 20 years.
“I love the variety of entertainment available. There is everything from slapstick comedy to serious drama and I usually look for cutting edge theatre that will challenge me and be interesting to watch.”
The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (fringetheatreadventures.ca) will be held from Aug. 16 to 26.
Calgary also has a growing fringe theatre movement and the Calgary Fringe Festival (www.calgaryfringe.ca) will take place from Aug. 3 to 11 this year.
The Canadian Badlands Passion Play (canadianpassionplay.com) has been performed in Drumheller since 1994 in a natural bowl amphitheatre that provides a dramatic backdrop for the play and superb natural acoustics.
The play follows the story of the life of Jesus Christ as found in the four gospels and uses the skills of more than 200 performers in colourful costumes to depict various biblical stories such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
The play will run this year from July 13 to 22. Tickets start at $36 per person.
What could be more appropriate than watching a play about small town life being performed in a small Alberta hamlet?
Alberta’s largest rural professional theatre is staging Anne of Green Gables this summer until Aug. 25. Based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s lovable characters, the play is sure to please theatregoers of all ages.
The play runs Wednesday to Saturday with matinee and evening performances at the Rosebud Theatre (www.rosebudtheatre.com). Tickets start at $58 for adults and $35 for children and include a buffet lunch or dinner. Rosebud is located 25 km southwest of Drumheller.
During the summer months, the Yates Theatre in Lethbridge really hops as the New West Theatre (www.newwesttheatre.com) stages its annual summertime music-comedy revue shows.
This summer, they are staging Bandstand from July 4 to 28 and Party On! from Aug. 8 to Sept. 1. Bandstand features the music that dominated the airwaves in the 1960s, while Party On! features songs by Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston and others.
Both shows have lively dancing and great costumes. Tickets cost $21 for adults, $18 for seniors and students and $12 for children under 12.
Built in 1912, Cardston’s Carriage House Theatre (thecarriagehousetheatre.com) has changed hands many times and is currently used as both a movie theatre and a live theatre venue.
This summer, the Carriage House Theatre Foundation is staging three productions simultaneously — The Marvelous Wondrettes, Drowsy Chaperone and Once Upon a Mattress. The shows are all family-friendly and appropriate for theatregoers of all ages. The casts are comprised of young energetic theatre students, so the performances are always lively.
Tickets cost $22 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $12 for youth ages 5-18. Performances take place Monday to Saturday most weeks in July and August. Cardston is about 45 minutes outside Waterton Lakes National Park in the southwest corner of Alberta.
For more information on what’s playing in Alberta’s thriving theatre scene, visit the Theatre Alberta website: www.theatrealberta.com.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.