Thursday, 30 July 2015 10:47

Rosie Bitts made this year’s Chautauqua extra interesting

Written by  Joey Donnelly
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Earlier this month, the Lyric hosted another successful Chautauqua featuring six delightful plays.


By far, the one that gained the most attention was Stories of Love and Passion by Rosie Bitts and her impromptu opening act.
Prior to the festival, we advised the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority that her show contained burlesque, a satirical form of exotic dancing (with pasties and G-string intact).
Under the revised liquor laws on striptease, a non-profit can only host one burlesque per year. However, since I booked the show prior to the law’s announcement, we were able to present both performances.
On her Thursday night show, a local preacher yelled from across the street and prayed for the souls who entered the theatre, until a police officer eventually escorted him away. On the following night, Rosie agreed to give a short opener when a slot became available.
She was hired to sing a couple songs, but her act strayed to include a dance, followed by an improvised monologue about the reinstatement of the province’s striptease ban.
The Lyric’s president, Denise Wall, was hosting that night and gave Rosie the old Vaudeville hook. Denise’s well-intentioned interruption of Rosie’s rant came out of a deep concern about its impact on the Lyric’s liquor licence and theatre sponsors.
Our president (no relation to the premier) invited the burlesque bombshell to do another number, but Rosie gracefully left the stage with an audience member carrying her away like a modern-day Cleopatra.
I ended up adding fuel to the fire when I posted an audio recording of Friday’s fiasco on the internet. Within days, the story was picked up by media outlets across Western Canada and went viral on social media with the hashtags, #censorship and #freethenipple. 
Swift Current, the province, and Denise in particular, were trolled by online readers who barely got half of the story. Denise is a tireless volunteer who holds the theatre’s best interests at heart. To say that anyone on the board condones censorship is ridiculous.
After all, the theatre has been a fountain of free speech since we re-opened 10 years ago. The Lyric has hosted countless edgy shows, Pride celebrations and comedy routines that have pushed boundaries and raised local consciousness to new levels. 
This isn’t the first time the playhouse has had a performer that ruffled a few feathers. In November 1912, before the Lyric officially opened its doors, the theatre issued this following emergency statement:
“To say that we were disappointed and disgusted with the barnstorming performance of Mr. Corbin is putting it mildly. It is not the intention of the Lyric Management to merely get the money — we want to give the public value received and a little more if possible.”
A friend recently reminded me that controversy in theatre is always good thing.
To Rosie’s credit, theatre-goers overwhelmingly enjoyed her show. She also raised some excellent points about the current state of Saskatchewan’s liquor laws and female body agency.
Rosie successfully lobbied the B.C. government to amend its similar legislation to allow burlesque, distinguishing it as a relevant theatrical genre on par with an adult comedy routine.
For a happy ending to this complicated affair, I sincerely hope that Premier Brad Wall revisits the liquor laws once again and bows to the beauty of burlesque.
UPCOMING SHOWS: On Thursday, Aug. 6, Bears in Hazenmore are launching their six-song EP titled Airwaves at the Lyric with Regina-based Nick Faye and the Deputies as the opening act. The local band will then embark on a 13-city tour.
The next Lyric Open Stage is on Friday, Aug. 14. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m., $7 at the door (performers get in for free).
On Friday, Aug. 28, prepare for another hilarious night of spontaneous comedy with Swift Current Improvisational Theatre (SCIT). Tickets are $10. The doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
For more information about the Lyric and other upcoming shows, visit lyrictheatre.ca, the Facebook page or phone 306-773-6292.
(Joey Donnelly is a news reporter for Golden West Radio, folklorist and Lyric board member.)

Read 6112 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 July 2015 13:39

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