Tuesday, 30 June 2015 19:53

Chautauqua Festival brings award-winning plays to Swift Current

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The compelling story of a young American girl who is stranded with her family in Nazi Germany during the Second World War is one of six award-winning one-act plays from the Canadian Fringe circuit that will be performed at the Chautauqua Festival in Swift Current, July 8-11.


The creation of Eleanor’s story: An American girl in Hitler’s Germany has been a labour of love for Ingrid Garner.
The play is an adaptation of her grandmother Eleanor Ramrath Garner’s autobiography about her youth in war-time Germany.
Ingrid said the play will provide audiences with a different perspective on those turbulent years.
“The stories we usually hear about the war are the soldier’s story and the Holocaust,” she mentioned. “The story I have
to offer is a more universal story of citizens in wartime and just how innocent women, children and men, civilians, are affected by war, and it continues to happen.”
Eleanor’s family decided to move from the United States to Germany in the late 1930s after her father received a job offer, but war broke out while they were travelling by boat across the Atlantic Ocean.
They were unable to return home and spent seven years in Germany, where they endured life in a fascist state. They had to survive food shortages, the Allied bombing raids of Berlin and the terrors of Soviet occupation.
Ingrid has been aware from a young age of her grandmother’s war-time experiences. She heard the details
for the first time at the age of 10 when her mother read her grandmother’s book to her.
“It’s something that I still think after every show that it’s just amazing that the little girl who went through all this really horrific, incredibly traumatizing experiences grew up to be the magical grandma that I know,” she said. “That she’s able to have such a love for life and be such a happy, sprite-like person after all that.”
Her grandmother attended the premiere of the play at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), in May 2014.
“She was very proud and told me she felt well and truly honoured and that it was a wonderful gift to her,” Ingrid recalled. “She said it was interesting and emotional to watch me play her and her family.”
She wrote the play while studying towards her bachelor’s degree in drama at CSUF, which she received last year.
“It seemed like a great opportunity while I was still in
school and had access to my professors and to professional help,” she said. “It seemed like a really good use of my time and resources.”
While it was somewhat intimidating to create a play involving the story of family members, it was also a benefit
to be able to talk to her grandmother.
“That made the process certainly easier because especially with her character — I had direct access to her,” she said.
“I could ask her how she was feeling during the bombings. So she could give me specific examples of typical things that she went through and she was able to speak for her relatives as well as the other characters.”
Another challenge is to perform the different characters
in a way that makes it easy for audiences to follow the story, but she has received positive feedback.
“People tell me they’re able to follow the story and that the characters do come across as distinct to them,” she said.
The 60-minute show uses video screen projection and sound effects to create an immersive experience and to assist with transitions. The play’s producer Richard Maritzer did the sound and video design.
“He was able to find real, excellent sound effects of the air raids and the bombings and various other sound effects of the time,” she said. “He recorded radio announcements to help push the story along and to give me a break from talking every once in a while.”
She worked with Maritzer, the artistic director of the vaudeville-nouveau troupe Sound & Fury, when they performed at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in the summer
of 2013. He introduced her to the fringe concept and she
has realized fringe festivals provide a real opportunity to showcase her work as a playwright and performer.
“I, like many of my peers, was very worried about what
the future was going to hold,” she said. “The entertainment industry is so competitive, but once I learned about fringe festivals, which is not a very prominent thing in America,
I realized that would be an excellent way to do what I love.”
Eleanor’s story has already received awards and five-star critical reviews during performances at Australian fringe festivals in Adelaide and Perth.
Ingrid has been performing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival during the past month and in addition to Swift Current’s Chautauqua Festival she will also take the play to the Winnipeg Fringe Festival at the end of July and the Edmonton Fringe Festival in August.
“I think it’s still very relevant today to learn the consequences of what war does to people,” she said. “I hope that people find it meaningful and educational and moving.”
This is the eighth year the Lyric Theatre is hosting the Chautauqua Summer Theatre Festival in Swift Current.
The six plays will provide entertainment to a variety of audiences, from children and families to adults only.
Eleanor’s story: An American girl in Hitler’s Germany will be performed July 10 at 2 p.m. and July 11 at 7 p.m.
Aiden Flynn lost his brother, so he makes another by Theatre Howl was the winner of the best English theatre production
at the 2014 Montreal Fringe Festival. It tells the story of love, loss, acceptance and family through movement, music and shadow puppets. It will be performed July 10 at 7 p.m. and
July 11 at 1 p.m.
Embrace Theatre will perform Saskatchewan outdoors:
A touring place for families about two siblings who leave their video games and television behind for a family camping trip. There will be a theatre and puppetry workshop for children after each performance, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 8 and 9.
The Sound & Fury production Lord of the Thrones is a tale
of a Hafling hero who wants to rule the land called Muddled Earth. This fantasy is full of magic, laughs and audience participation. There will be two performances July 11 at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Two productions at the Chautauqua Festival are aimed at mature audiences. The Sama Kutra is the story of a clown duo trying to save their marriage with a night of ridiculous erotic antics. It is scheduled for July 9 at 7 p.m. and July 10 at 9 p.m.
Rosie Bitts will share her unconventional love stories in Stories of love and passion that is a combination of cabaret, burlesque and storytelling. It is scheduled for July 8 at 7 p.m. and July 9 at 9 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for youth matinees, while other performances are $12 per show, $20 for two evening shows or $55 for a five-show festival pass. Tickets are available at Pharmasave or by phoning the Lyric Theatre at 306-773-6292. Information about each play and show times are on the Lyric Theatre website at www.lyrictheatre.ca or on the Chautauqua Festival’s Facebook page.

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