Calgary in June: A Stampede of New Writing

By Goldman, Jessica | American Theatre, May-June 2012 | Go to article overview

Calgary in June: A Stampede of New Writing


Goldman, Jessica, American Theatre


WHEN CALGARY WAS CHOSEN AS THE 2012 CULTURAL CAPITAL OF Canada, it was a wakeup call that this city--most strongly associated with cowboys, oil and the Calgary Stampede--is also a hotbed of diverse artistic creativity. Don your cowboy hat if you must, but be prepared to doff it many times for the myriad of can't-miss shows you'll encounter when you visit.

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The theatrical momentum continues in June: First up is Lunchbox Theatre's Stage One Festival of New Work (June 4-23), in which audience input plays an integral role. During the festival, a minimum of six new plays are workshopped, then read for an audience using professional actors. Talkbacks are held following each reading, allowing the writer, director and actors to take audience feedback into consideration when further developing the play. date, Stage One has helped develop 200 new works by more than 100 playwrights, and many of these productions have subsequently played across Canada and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; two, The Wild Guys (by Andrew Wreggit and Rebecca Shaw) and Life History of the African Elephant (by Clem Martini) have been made into feature films. All this has happened with the initial help of Calgary audiences.

June will also see an important first for the theatre scene in Calgary, as the city has been chosen to host the 10th edition of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival (June 13-23), which presents eight plays drawn from the best work of English-language theatre companies across the country and provides an exciting snapshot of Canada's contemporary theatre artists from coast to coast. Some highlights of the festival this year include Ignorance, by Calgary's own avant-garde puppeteers, the Old Trout Puppet Workshop (featured on this issue's cover). Billed as a puppet documentary, it looks irreverently to our caveman ancestors to ascertain where we went so wrong. On a more dramatic note, Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland's critically acclaimed play Oil and Water tells the true story of Lanier Phillips, an African-American shipwreck survivor saved by the "people of St. Lawrence," who alter his life forever.

Hot-button issues of geo-engineering, oceanic health and eco-terrorism get the spotlight in the remounting of the 2010 play In the Wake, by Calgary's Downstage Creation Ensemble (June 14-22). The play won the 2010 prestigious Betty Mitchell Award for outstanding new play. …

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