Sparks in Dark

Heather Christie and Kurtis Bakanec during rehearsal of a scene from the play Almost, Maine that opens the second Sparks in the Dark season at Swift Current's Lyric Theatre.

The second season of the Lyric Theatre’s Sparks in the Dark play series will bring three new productions to the stage to offer an enriching live theatre experience to audiences.

Gordon McCall, the Lyric Theatre's artistic director, is excited about the new season, which starts Oct. 3.

It’s great to feel that we had such a wonderful response last year to the season and we’re looking forward to bringing more plays to the community this season with it,” he said. “We’ve heard from a lot of people that they really enjoyed themselves and that they want this series. So we’re really excited to open with this show.”

The new season starts with eight performances of American playwright John Cariani’s critically acclaimed play, Almost, Maine.

Almost, Maine is a really wonderful quirky, but easily accessible play about love and laughter and the northern lights,” McCall said. “The playwright mixes in an ingredient that we kind of take for granted in terms of relationships, and it’s an outside force. It’s the northern lights, but it’s actually a metaphor for a lot of things that happen in our lives by magical occurrence, and so the play has a lot of wonderful eccentricity about it.”

The play has been a hit in theatres across North America since its premiere in 2004. The different scenes are set in the fictional town of Almost in Maine, where residents fall in and out of love in strange and unexpected ways.

“This play speaks about small communities and rural communities,” he said. “Northern Maine is mainly forest. There’s one township that spreads for miles and there’s only 17 people that live in it. So it just feels like the prairies to me in one way, and then these are all really accessible hardworking, straight-ahead, very sincere people living their lives out in small communities, and I just thought it would be a nice connection for all of us.”

The new Sparks in the Dark season will follow the same format as the inaugural season, with three productions directed by McCall. He is thrilled with the great response in the community to this initiative to expand the Lyric Theatre's involvement with the performing arts.

The three productions during the inaugural season varied from a love story set against the backdrop of the First World War to a Christmas production for the entire family and then a hilarious, thought-provoking play about mothers.

“Each one of them was extremely different,” he said. “It approached it from a completely different angle, and I think people really enjoyed that variety of approach.”

Another part of the success of the inaugural season, which will happen again in the new season, is the use of local actors.

“We are putting local actors on stage, and we are working very hard to help develop them further as actors and they’re responding tremendously,” he said. “And the audiences are really telling us how much pride they have in the fact that these are Swift Current and Saskatchewan people on the stage. That’s what made it special.”

Five actors will perform multiple roles in the Lyric Theatre’s production of Almost, Maine. The cast members are Kurtis Bakanec, Heather Christie, Zac Oliver, Eliza Switzer, and Nadia Walloschek.

There will be nine performances of Almost, Maine. Tickets are $20 each and available at Pharmasave. There will be five evening performances, starting at 8 p.m., on Oct. 3, 4, 5, 11, and 12. The four matinee performances at 2 p.m. will be on Oct. 5, 6, 12, and 13.

The second season will continue in December with a Christmas production aimed at children of all ages. More Merry Munsch is a follow-up to the inaugural season’s production of beloved Robert Munsch stories. McCall has adapted several other Munsch stories for this year’s stage production, which is scheduled for Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 19-22.

“Thankfully Robert Munsch has written many, many stories,” McCall said. “So we’re presenting six or seven more stories that the audience hasn’t seen on our stage yet.”

The second Sparks in the Dark season will conclude in March with the world premiere of Swift Current playwright Wendy Lockman’s play, Burn Rubber, Dolly.

“A lot of great people have come out of small communities and they write about their own experience or their vision of their experience, and it captures an audience far and wide,” McCall said. “This is a big part of the programming I want to do, and that is to produce original work from our own community or the province of Saskatchewan and premiere it here with the hope that it will get productions elsewhere for the playwright.”

This play is a coming-of-age story set in the 1950s about two resilient sisters whose love for each other help them along their life journey. There will be nine performances on March 19-22 and March 26-28.

McCall brings years of experience to his role as artistic director at the Lyric Theatre. He was the founder or first artistic director of four Canadian professional theatre companies, and his goal with the Sparks in the Dark series is to keep each season fresh and exciting for audiences.

“It doesn’t have to be monumental,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be explosive. It just has to be a fresh angle on it. It could be how we stage the plays. It could be a different structure to the plays. Something that wasn’t what you saw the last time you were here. It could be different musically. And it could be a different point of view in the play that is fresh.”

He is confident that audiences will be delighted with their theatrical experiences during this new Sparks in the Dark season, and that they will have unexpected moments of revelation.

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