November 05, 2019

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All the world’s a stage

I had the pleasure of attending a few theatre events in the past couple of weeks.

Kinosoo Performing Arts presented The Accidental Humour Company’s “The Flying Detective” at the Lakeland Inn in Cold Lake on October 26. The show made clever use of video projection to create the impression of a huge stage in the hotel banquet room.

The cast brought the story, based on real events in Alberta history, to life in an energetic presentation. They even constructed Wop May’s biplane before our eyes!

Last week I attended a rehearsal of the Elk Point Regional Allied Arts upcoming dinner theatre production, “Southern Fried Funeral.”

As a former musician, I love watching artists involved in the creative process. The play rehearsal was similar to, but not the same as, band and orchestra rehearsals that I am familiar with. It was a snapshot in the development of the production—not yet ready for the public, but well on its way. The players knew what they had to do, and went about doing it.

On opening night, everything will appear polished and effortless. The audience gets to see the final result, not the labour of love behind it.

And on Friday I drove to Lloydminster to watch Jake’s Gift, a solo play about a veteran returning to the site of the D-Day landings to make peace with a brother who was killed in the invasion. Julia Mackey played a ten-year-old girl, her grandmother, and Jake without leaving the stage for an hour and five minutes.

It was an incredibly moving performance.

The three shows were presented in very different venues: a banquet room that fills the bill, but is not ideal for live theatre; a community arts space with a terrific stage and backstage space, built by and for the Elk Point arts community; and a professional performance space.

Theatre is a magical art form that encourages performers and audience to share their imaginations and make a story come to life. In a way it doesn’t matter how big or small the stage is: all you need is a story, someone to tell it, and someone to hear it.

But there’s something to be said for giving performers a space where they can turn in their best work. A space that is made not just to accommodate the technical aspects of show business, but one that brings artists and audiences together with as few barriers as possible.

Efforts are underway in Bonnyville to replace the late, lamented Lyle Victor Albert Centre. Long (long, long) term plans exist to build a theatre in Cold Lake.

Good venues are expensive to build and operate, and they need tangible support from arts groups, sponsors, and audiences. Most municipalities cannot sustain a “Cadillac” of an arts centre. But a venue that fits well with its community is a real treasure.