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Theatrical trailblazers launch a new Sylvan Lake tourist attraction

Theatre Trail will run Sept. 10, 11, 17 and 18 throughout the town
Sylvan Lake Theatre Trail actors Everett Dool (left) and Layne Zazalak rehearse one of the four plays. (Contributed photo by Megan Routhier)

Theatre will make a long-awaited return to Sylvan Lake next month when storytellers unite with actors and playwrights to take audience members on an immersive journey.

Sylvan Lake’s Theatre Trail is a free event that will weave historic tales of the community’s past with original plays. It will run Sept. 10, 11 and 17 and 18 at various venues throughout the town.

Theatre trail was conceived by area residents Wendy Thurston and retired Red Deer Polytechnic theatre instructor Tanya Ryga. They wanted to enhance the local arts and culture scene, while also creating an attraction that could extend the town’s tourist season into September.

The last time plays were performed in Sylvan Lake was 20-plus years ago when Red Deer’s Prime Stock Theatre was staging Shake by the Lake Shakespearean productions there, recalled Ryga. She believes it’s high-time local theatre made a comeback, since the town of 15,000 people has a large talent pool to draw from.

The Theatre Trail venture goes back to 2019 when four area playwrights were recruited to each come up with 15-minute plays set in Sylvan, either now or in the past.

Stepping up for the challenge are Treena Mielke, a local reporter and columnist, Ash Mercia, an local actor and improviser, Megan Routhier, a recent H.J. Cody grad, and Thurston, a creative writer.

Their four short plays, directed by Ryga and Tom Bradshaw, another former Red Deer Polytechnic instructor, were initially supposed to be performed in 2020, but were delayed due to the pandemic.

The plots, to be enacted by a cast of nine, are: A Ukrainian refugee gets cold feet about marrying a Sylvan Lake farmer; Two friends lose themselves in a fantasy role-playing game; Girls “swoon” over boys who come to the lake in 1962; And two people trying to make a connection must decide if it’s the end or the beginning.

The plays will each be performed at a different, “secret” Sylvan Lake venue that will be transformed into a pop-up seated theatre, said Ryga.

Storytellers have been lined up to lead audience members between the venues on a one-kilometre trail, engaging them with tales from Sylvan lake’s colourful history.

Ryga believes the entire experience will take about two hours.

So far, she’s thrilled with the community’s buy-in for this project, saying the Town of Sylvan Lake, the local Chamber of Commerce and many local businesses have been very interested and helpful. Municipal and provincial grants were also obtained.

Ryga hopes Theatre Trail will become a beloved annual event, much like Sylvan Lake’s Jazz at the Lake Festival, which is on Aug. 19-21.

Theatre Trail will offer four performances daily at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. While the shows are free, space is limited so audience members must pre-register at

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