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Wednesday, 29 June 2016 09:18

Chautauqua Summer Theatre has long history at Lyric

Written by  Joey Donnelly
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The Lyric Theatre is set to present its ninth annual Chautauqua Summer Theatre Festival, July 7-9, although the tradition goes back much further.


An article published in the Swift Current Sun on July 20, 1917 boasted that Chautauqua’s “biggest attractions was the WaikakiHawaiian Quintet" and featured a picture of five Hawaiians with ukuleles and guitars. 
Chautauqua brought education, inspiration and entertainment to the prairies, as audiences flocked to tents to see live theatre, hear a notable lecturer and listen to music. For many people on the lonely prairies, the shows gave a glimpse of faraway places and filled an important need in their lives.
Today, the Lyric’s Chautauqua is indoors and creates the same sense of belonging. Councillor Ron Toles has been involved with local theatre for nearly forty years.
"People enjoy amateur theatre but Chautauqua is a chance to see live, professional theatre. You don't have to go to New York, Regina or Saskatoon. You can see it right here on our stage for a minimal price. I think it's an amazing thing for Swift Current," he said.
Toles said that both he and his wife Carol are among the first to purchase festival passes.
"Theatre allows us to enjoy vicariously other people's experiences. Chautauqua offers something for everybody," he said. "If you like comedy, drama - it's a chance to let your life go for an hour."
The festival opens with a Thursday matinee called Shangri-La. The play is set in small-town Saskatchewan one night in 1963; Jeanne McCate is hanging on for dear life in her own hilarious and heartfelt way.
Hip Hop Hoop Dance is an all-ages show that features Terrance Littletent and Chancz Perry who fuse First Nations hoop dance and hip hop.
Letters to West 113th tells the story of mentalist Jeff Newman, who re-imagines the pinnacle performance that shook the legendary Harry Houdini.
The final play, Shape of a Girl, is a powerful journey of a young woman as she struggles with a tragic murder.
Along with professional theatre troupes arriving for Chautauqua, this year we’re featuring an outdoor patio with free live music.
Come and enjoy a cold beverage, a light snack or pie and some great music, including Michael Eckert Lyngstad, Creek City (Michael Tetrault Jean Cyca), Denise Wall, Stacy Tinant , Rib Rash (Greg Currie) and Venessa Gauvin.
"The Lyric brings in shows that other venues don't. It's an intimate venue - it's small and compact. You can have a beverage, enjoy a snack, watch music or drama. I think it has been a huge addition to our downtown,” Toles added.
For more information about Chautauqua and other upcoming shows, visit lyrictheatre.ca, like our Facebook page, or call 306-773-6292.
(Joey Donnelly is a journalist, folklorist and Lyric board member.)

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