Five actors

Five actors

Straight for the funny bone

All heck is breaking loose at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club in the off season. Men are swinging from bed sheets and running around in bunny underwear. Women are hiding from their husbands and engaging in the sort of harebrained schemes that bring Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance to mind.

All heck is breaking loose at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club in the off season.

Men are swinging from bed sheets and running around in bunny underwear. Women are hiding from their husbands and engaging in the sort of harebrained schemes that bring Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance to mind.

In other words, it’s just another night at Cow Patti Theatre Company. . .

Central Alberta’s only professional dinner theatre has been successfully running in its second Lacombe incarnation for the past four years, bringing in seasoned actors from across Canada to appear in locally-produced farces, staged at the clubhouse.

Five actors, each with up to 30 years of experience, were flown in from Toronto and as far as Fredericton, N.B., for the last play, Who’s Under Where?, by Marcia Kash and Douglas E. Hughes.

All performed in various actors’ equity productions, from weighty Shakespearean productions at Stratford, Ont., to television commercials and high-profile TV serials and movies. But they parked their method-acting techniques at the door upon arriving in Lacombe.

Instead, their gifts for comic timing and Benny Hill-like pratfalls were fully tapped into for the lightweight Cow Patti show that ran for five weeks before wrapping on Dec. 14.

The plot line about two sneaky lingerie designers, their jealous husbands, and a half-naked male model, was “way, way over the top,” said Patric Masurkevitch. The actor portrayed buffoonish designer Senior Bruno Fruferelli with an Italian accent thicker than parmigiano cheese.

Who’s Under Where? presented a fun seven weeks of employment (including two weeks of rehearsals) for Masurkevitch, a married Torontonian and father of two.

He spent many seasons at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and Charlottetown Festival in P.E.I., but didn’t know exactly where Lacombe was on the map before agreeing to play Fuferelli.

But he was eager to take on another acting adventure for pay.

“Where you work is where you go. Actors are self-employed, so we’re always looking for something,” said Masurkevitch. He (along with the other out-of-province thespians) was taken on a day trip to Banff and the Rocky Mountains before returning to Ontario. His next production, Melancholy Play at Toronto’s The Empty Room Theatre, will be a definitely departure from Who’s Under Where?, which was full of baffling comic mayhem.

But catching all the nonsensical details didn’t matter.

The dinner theatre audience that gathered one Wednesday night in November — nearly a full-house crowd, including ladies from the Red Hat Society and a local non-profit group reaping some proceeds from ticket sales — were there purely for the chuckles and guffaws.

And there were plenty to be had.

“We came because we’re golfers, but now we’re hooked. It’s a fun evening out. The shows are fabulous and the food is good,” concluded Cow Patti patron Judy Kemmis, from Rimbey, at the last farce.

Her friend Pat Cox compared the quality of the plays to those produced by Calgary theatre companies she’s attended.

Cow Patti founder and producer AnnaMarie Lea credits the “fantastic” professional actors who she hires for allowing her to put on “top-notch” entertainment in a community of 12,000 people.

She feels it’s the consistent ability to make people laugh that’s key to her theatre group’s success.

“The world and people’s lives are so full of tragedy. We could all shed a tear at the drop of a hat for private or personal matters … so we stick to laughter,” said Lea.

While some theatre groups aspire to put on experimental plays or serious productions with a message, no extra brain power is needed for Cow Patti fare — which goes straight for the funny bone. “We give the people what they want,” Lea added.

Drawing audiences from Stettler, Red Deer and beyond, Cow Patti is a rare entrepreneurial achievement — a financially successful company with an 18-year track-record for putting on shows in small communities without relying on government grants.

In large part, it remains a family affair. Lea picks the scripts and directors, produces and acts in each show. Her husband designs and builds the sets, and their four kids lend hands in various ways.

Lea, a Calgary native, tread the boards professionally in Vancouver and Yellowknife before starting Cow Patti in Lacombe in 1996 for lifestyle reasons: Proceeds from shows at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club allowed her to stay home while raising her children, who now range in age from 14 to 23 years.

Since her husband, Tom, was away piloting commercial passenger flights to northern Canada, somebody had to stay home with the family, said Lea.

The actress, who lists among her credits the 2008 feature film Death Race with Jason Statham (she played a nasty teller) and Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs with Janet Wright of Corner Gas fame (at Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre), also sought to make her own acting opportunities in a small town that, otherwise, wouldn’t have offered any.

With its comedy-first mandate, Cow Patti became a local favourite in Lacombe for five seasons before Lea had to close up shop and move east with her spouse after he was transferred by his airline to Ontario in 2000. Cow Patti Theatre reopened in Cornwall and operated successfully there until 2010. Then Lea’s husband was transferred back to Alberta.

Although his family and their theatre company returned with him to Lacombe, Lea wasn’t sure what kind of homecoming to expect. She was heartened to discover “people didn’t forget about Cow Patti.”

In fact, David Clark, former general manager of the Lacombe Golf and Country Club, immediately invited the group to use the facility again for its shows — which was a huge boon to starting anew in Central Alberta, said Lea.

She remains touched by this support. As Clark passed away recently from an illness, Cow Patti is dedicating this season to his memory, along with that of the late Richard Bauer, who acted in several Cow Patti shows.

“I do this to make a paycheque, but it’s the people I meet and work with who fill my life,” said Lea, who’s always aimed to give something back to the community through her company. That’s why Cow Patti regularly does benefit performances for dozens of smaller charities and non-profit groups, such as Medical Mercy Canada, Grammalink-Africa and the Lending Cupboard.

In the 2013-14 season of three plays, the group raised more than $47,000 for various organizations.

Who’s Under Where itself raised $23,500 for charities through eight benefit performances. A portion of every dinner theatre ticket sold for benefit performances is earmarked for designated charities. The groups’ causes are also publicized at these shows, and they can hold fundraising silent auctions and gain from a Plop Drop raffle.

Lea takes care of all the organizational details, as well as marketing and ticket sales. It makes for very long days while a show is in progress.

“I used to tell the kids, ‘OK, Mom is going into Crazy Week’ before we open a show. … But it’s all been very gratifying,” said Lea. Considering the theatre group can only use the golf club from November to the end of March, she decided to simplify things this season by staging two Cow Patti plays with longer runs rather than three with shorter ones.

Next up is The Ladies Foursome, by Norm Foster, which runs from March 4 to 29. The new round of comic mayhem should be a particular hit with golfers.

For more information, visit www.cowpatti.com.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read