This year's Alberta Theatre Projects PlayRites Festival has a new prefix: PanCanadian, thanks to new sponsor PanCanadian Petrolium Ltd., which will donate $125,000 per year to the event for the next three years.
D. Michael Dobbin, ATP producing director, said of the deal, "They are a company of high standards in Calgary whose leader has made it clear that art and artists are key to a dynamic community... The long-term future for the festival depends on us finding other major players to contribute significant dollars so that ATP can continue...its national role...at the center of Canadian theatre creation."
Creations for this season's event include four new plays:
The Heart As It Lived (prev. Jan. 18; Op: Jan. 30; To March 1).
Campbell Smith directs Mansel Robinson's ironic story of a family in the corporate 1990s being disrupted by troubles that go back to the 1930s. The main character is cane-swinging, acid-tongued spinster, Annie McBride, played by Sheila Paterson. Other cast members are Edward Belanger, Glyn Thomas, Christian Goutsis and Esther Purves-Smith. Allan Rae has composed the incidental music for the piece, which features a set by Helen Jarvis, costumes by Judith Bowden, lighting by Brian Pincott and sound design by John Bent Jr.
Between Pancho Villa And A Naked Woman (prev. Jan. 17; Op: Jan. 29; To March 2.)
Shelley Tepperman translates Mexican playwright Sabina Berman's comedy, with direction by Michael Dobbin. When Gina has trouble with her thoughtless Latin lover and her aggressive young suitor, Pancho Villa arrives to offer advice on women and war. Pancho is played by Wes Tritter, Gina by Tracey Ferencz. Heather Lea MacCallum, Edward Belanger, Todd Waite and Donna Belleville complete the cast. The technical staff is the same as for Heart. Emphysema - A Love Story (prev. Jan. 21; Op: Jan. 31; To March 2)
Janet Munsil's comical fantasy about an old-aged meeting between UK theatre critic/historian Kenneth Tynan and and silent screen actress, Louise Brooks. The play, directed by Micheline Chevrier, uses cigarette smoking as a metaphor for the characters' life-long failure to connect. Featured are Ravonna Dow, Sheila Moore and David Schurmann.
Tolstoy's Wife (prev. Jan. 19; Op: Feb. 1; To March 1.)
The turbulent relationship between Russian novelest Leo Tolstoy (War And Peace, Anna Karenina) and his long-suffering wife, Sofya. Exacting revenge on her husband for parading his mistresses before her, Sofya must also cope with the couple's scheming daughter and trying to divert the author's profits to resettling persecuted Russians in Saskatchewan (a true historical event). Bob White directs Frank Moher's sardonic comedy. Cast members include Edward Belanger, Donna Belleville, Tracey Ferencz, Heather Lea MacCallum, Christian Goutsis, Sheila Paterson, Esther Purves-Smith, Glyn Thomas, Wes Tritter and Todd Waite. The technical crew is the same as for Heart.
Other events in the PanCanadian Festival include free staged readings of works-in-progress by Kent Staines, Eugene Stickland, Sally Clark and Bryan Wade; and the announcement of winners of the 30th Alberta Playwrighting Competition (for one-act, full-length and "Discovery" pieces).
Also offered will be BMW's -- Brief Musical Works -- hour-long performances featuring a variety of pieces performed by a special PlayRites musical theatre company. The menu changes each week, with the final week serving as a "Best Of." The 1997 Harry & Martha Cohen Award for contribution to Calgary Theatre will also be part of the festivities.
Saturday nights will bring trips outside the Alberta Theatre Center to local performance pieces. These C$5 "Out Of Bounds" trips bring patrons to "cutting-edge, site-specific productions."
On March 1, the ATP Student Writers Group will read original works, while on Feb. 28, Canadian dramatistJohn Murrell will offer a free symposium on "Education In The Arts."
And just in case most of these events sound too passive, there's also a 24-hour playwrighting competition. 20 playwrights will be sequestered in the PanCanadian Training Center, Feb. 7-8 and are given 24 hours to write a full-length play. The first place winner will receive a laptop computer. Interested entrants can call (403) 294-7475.
Though ATP have generally made sure to squeeze most of their biggest events (including the time-honored Sunday pancake brunch) into the final "Blitz Weekend," (Feb. 28-March 1) this season they also offer a C$65 "Marthathon," Feb. 15-16, in which participants can see all 4 mainstage plays, one Platform reading, and one locally produced, "Out-Of-Bounds" performance piece.
Both PanCanadian and ATP are celebrating their 25th anniversaries, with the PlayRites Festival currently enjoying its 11th year. Previous plays staged at the Fest include Brad Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains And The True Nature Of Love, Sally Clark's Moo, and Eugene Stickland's Siting On Paradise.
For information on any and all PanCanadian PlayRites Festival events, call (403) 294-7402.
--By David Lefkowitz