A former Red Deer College theatre instructor wants to spark a cultural Renaissance in Red Deer.
While the pandemic wiped out most live performances for the past two years, Tanya Ryga recalled it wasn’t too long ago that this city had a thriving theatre scene.
Less than a decade back, the former Red Deer College (now Polytechnic) had an active Theatre Studies department, which bolstered a lot of activity in the community. It provided mentorship to local groups, as well as a supply of trained graduates who would sometimes stay in Red Deer and start their own companies.
Red Deerians could be entertained by Prime Stock Theatre beyond summer Bard on Bower shows. They could see edgier fare by Ignition Theatre and Against the Wall Theatre, which staged several original plays, as well as Bull Skit improv and sketch comedy shows.
There were also Red Deer Players productions — as well as the long-running Central Alberta Theatre (CAT), which put on some musicals as well as dinner theatres. Younger thespians could start out in Cornerstone Theatre and Tree House Youth Theatre.
The pandemic and the faltering economy reduced the array of live performances available to local audiences. And the RDC Theatre Studies department was shut down due to low enrolment at the start of the pandemic.
While CAT, Prime Stock, Tree House, Cornerstone and a few other local live companies appear to have survived the lock-downs, Riga would like to see a more burgeoning arts and culture scene, as well as more opportunities for actors to do what they love.
On April 19, all actors in the community — amateur and semi-professional — are invited to an open house at CAT Studios to discuss what they can do to increase their opportunities to act.
Ryga doesn’t believe actors can only take the stage if they are cast in roles. “It’s a lousy way to be involved in something you’re passionate about… Are we going to sit back and wait for the crumbs to be thrown to us, or do we want to help create work for ourselves?” asked the retired RDC instructor.
Ryga always taught her theatre students that they should create their own opportunities to practice their craft, so she plans to put the question out to the acting community: “Can we create an actors’ lab?” Are actors interested in having CAT provide training opportunities and workshops so actors can work at launching their own projects?
At the April 19 social get-together, Ryga also plans to ask what do local actors need, and what do they want to see happening in Red Deer?
This is Alberta’s third-largest city, she points out — with a population of 100,000, Red Deer should be able to support more culture opportunities than are now on offer. Ryga would like to see more cross-pollination, with more local performers in festivals, such as Centrefest.
”I want to see if we can’t make things happen.”
The April 19 get-together for actors will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at CAT Studios and will also include a free session on how to improve audition skills.