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Festen not for the faint of heart

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Festen is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach or the easily offended, because the truth can really hurt sometimes, especially when the subjects of the play have a  pretty deep, dark and disturbing secret.
That didn’t stop director Jay Whitehead from tackling taboo topics for his first outing directing a University of Lethbridge production, which runs  Nov. 24-28 in the University Theatre.Christian goes toe to toe with his dad in Festen. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’m an actor first. When I read the script, it struck me as a play filled with juicy  acting roles for the actors to sink their teeth into,” explained Whitehead preparing his 14 member cast for a Monday night dress rehearsal.
Festen is David Eldridge’s dramatic adaptation of  the 1998 Danish film “The Celebration,” which was written  by Thomas Vinterberg and Morgens Rukov.
The story surrounds the activities of Klingelfeldt patriarch Helge who is celebrating his 60th birthday following the funeral of the family’s eldest daughter Leslie who committed suicide.
 So right away you know this isn’t going to be an easy production to watch, especially  when the audience hears a chorus of ominous screeches, screams, groans,  baby cries, bumps and bangs while waiting for it to begin. The audience is right on the stage with the actors, as eldest son Christian, played by Tanner d’Esterre enters, suitcases in hand, sits on them and has a drink from his flask for what seems like an eternity with nary a word. And soon the audience  will discover why — because he is about to drop a bomb on this upper crust family and  their friends which will tear them  apart. 

Big fun with Big River

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Lethbridge Musical Theatre is getting ready for a musical trip down the big muddy Mississippi for the next couple weeks.
 Big River, a musical interpretation of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, sets sail on Friday, Nov. 6 for a two week journey at the Yates Theatre.Dusty Dee Litchfield, who plays Huck Finn in Big River gets make-up done by Sheena Lawson. Photo By Richard Amery
“This is the best cast we’ve had in a long time,” said artistic director Kim Walburger adding Lethbridge does a major production every year at the Yates.
“This is the story of Huckleberry Finn. It won seven Tony Awards when it first came out but it came out at the same time as “A Chorus Line” so it was overshadowed by that. It’s almost word for word just like the book, but there’s  music in it — down southern U.S.A music,” he continued adding he’s wanted to bring the production to Lethbridge for quite a few years.
“We’ve got quite a few new people and a lot of people I’ve worked with before, so it’s been fun  to see them all grow,” he said noting having Juran Greene (who is best known for  singing with local funk/R and B band Hippodrome) playing the slave Jim has really helped the cast mesh with each other.
“He is a really great singer. I always said if we could get Juran, the rest of the cast would come together. And (Taber country singer) Dusty Dee Litchfield plays Huck Finn. He is Huck Finn. And we’ve got boys singing six part harmonies. It’s usually difficult getting boys to sing two part harmonies,” Walburger enthused.


Playgoers of Lethbridge has the “Key” to a good farce

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British  farce is the “key” to a successful dinner theatre according to the Playgoers of Lethbridge. The long standing Lethbridge theatre company is on stage at the Lethbridge Legion, Oct. 28-31 with John Chapman and Dave Freeman’s “Key For Two” featuring local actors  Don Berner, Vanessa Boila, Jeff Guzzi, Elaine Jagielski, Donna Kalau, Marcie Stork and Richard Amery.
Donna Kalau and Vanessa Boila rehearse. Photo By Richard Amery“It’s a nice British farce which Playgoers is noted for,” enthused director Ed Bayly. “Key For Two” is  the story of Harriet, a divorcee living in a Brighton flat who makes ends meet by entertaining two married gentleman callers on different days of the week. Confusion arises when her friend Anne, whose marriage is collapsing arrives, closely followed her drunk husband. One of Harriet’s lovers sprains his ankle and is confined to bed. Confusion arrises when  the two wives arrive in search of their wayward husbands. It explodes into a crescendo of mistaken identities, splendidly farcial situations and a humourous climax of needle sharp precision.
It’s got some  very good individual parts for the actors and it’s lots of fun. It will be a good crowd pleaser,” Bayly continued.
“We thought it was an appropriate play for a dinner theatre,” he added, noting  Playgoers haven’t performed this particular production before though they have performed  “Bedfull of Foreigners” and “Move Over Mrs. Markham” by the same playwrights.
“Both of them were very successful and well received by the audiences,” Bayly said, adding the Playgoers of Lethbridge have done dinner theatres at most of  the major motels in the city.
They also perform a massive main stage production in February at the Yates Theatre. This year it will be Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” which runs Feb. 3-6. Next year Playgoers will be performing “ The Importance of Being Earnest.

Masques and Mayhem can be poetry in motion

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The Most Vocal Poets Society of Lethbridge are getting into the Halloween spirit a little early tonight, Oct. 21, in the GCBC Lounge with Masques and Mayhem.Blaine Greenwood shows off a few of his masks. Photo By Richard Amery
“Part of the reason for the masks is some of us have written poems we might be embarrassed to perform,” explained organizer Blaine Greenwood, adding because the Most Vocal Poets are pretty close knit , everybody knows the readers anyway. Besides masks are fun, especially when there will be about 40 of them from all over the world from Italy to Africa to try out.
“This is the poetry of the people in real life who might not ordinarily  perform it at an ordinary open mic,” Greenwood continued.
“Some poems read easily while other poems deal with the darker side of life,” he continued adding there is one about artist Vincent Van Gogh’s battle with schizophrenia. But it’s not all serious.
“There will be a carnival mood. It’s a case of trying something  not in the box,” he said emphasizing everybody is welcome to  read their poems, as per the philosophy of the Most Vocal Poets, “ off the page, on the stage.”
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