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Thursday, 12 October 2017 10:02

Historical musical about Cypress Hills returning to Lyric Theatre

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Stew Tasche Stew Tasche

A historical musical drama about the Cypress Hills will return to the stage at the Lyric Theatre in Swift Current for a third time in November.

All previous performances of the play “The Cypress Hills would never be the same” were sold out when it was presented at the Lyric Theatre in November 2014 and April 2015.
Tickets for the five performances of this production, which includes a new character, are now available. The previous performances have struck a chord with audiences.
“I think part of it might be just the whole idea of the Cypress Hills,” playwright Stew Tasche said.
“The Cypress Hills are mysterious when you get back into the hills. You can’t help but walk through the Cypress Hills up to the moon rocks or wherever it is that you happen to go without feeling a presence there of something that’s happened a long time ago. It’s very isolated in the sense that if you go walking in the back part of the Cypress Hills, you don’t see very many people. ... So it’s almost as if there’s a presence of people from the past and the Cypress Hills itself is just such an unusual, mysterious, beautiful, mystical, magical place, and I think people are starting to realize how important it is.”
The Swift Current resident, who wrote and produced the play, considers the events that occurred in the Cypress Hills during the 1870s to be a crucial part of western Canada’s history.
“What I intended when I started out was for the play to be educational, because everybody knows Cypress Hills as a place for camping and that sort of thing, relaxing and playing golf, but not many people know the history,” he said. “I was so fortunate to grow up in the Cypress Hills and have a father and grandfather who were very interested in the history. So that was instilled in me when I was a little kid, and I really believe that what happened in the Cypress Hills is arguably the most important piece of history in western Canada.”
The play highlights a tumultuous time in the history of the Cypress Hills. It depicts the events that resulted in the Cypress Hills Massacre and the march westward by the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) through a series of monologues and musical performances by different characters.
There is a new monologue and song in this latest production for the additional character, Crow Mary, an indigenous woman who was married to the trader Abe Farwell.
“The whole theme behind Crow Mary is that she’s caught between two different worlds,” he said.
Her role will be played by Val Marie resident and artist Madonna Hamel, who will deliver the new monologue and song.
“It’s a powerful song and she’s a powerful actor and a powerful singer,” Tasche said. “So she’s going to be great for the part.”
Another new member of the cast is elder Noel Starblanket, who will present the Nakoda point of view on historical events during his monologue. The other members of the cast were involved in the previous productions.
Joseph Naytowhow will be the singer and drummer at the start and end of the play. The two NWMP members will be played by Stefan Rumpel and Keegan Browne, and the American wolf hunters will be performed by Skip Neufeld, Gord Nodge, and Doug Sawatzky.
The live music for the different songs will be played by local musicians Dave Cyca, Mark Penner, and Ed Doyle. A new addition to this group will be the Saskatoon banjo player Jille Magnus Shotton.
Tasche hopes the play, which is a unique combination of historical information, drama and music, will help people to gain a better understanding of the past.
“I just want to give the facts and then people can make their own interpretation of what happened and why it happened and how significant it was,” he said.
The income from the five evening performances will be used to cover production costs and to raise funds for the Lyric Theatre. There will only be 156 tickets available for each show to ensure that there will be enough space for attendees to watch the performance.
“We’re trying to make it enjoyable and memorable for people,” he said. “So we’re restricting the number of tickets.”
The play will be performed each evening from Nov. 14 to 18. Reserved seating tickets are currently available at Pharmasave in Swift Current at a price of $25 per ticket.

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Matthew Liebenberg