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L.A. Beat

New West Theatre explores different venues and ideas for new season

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In part due to the ongoing renovations of the Yates Theatre New West Theatre is on the road— all over the city of Lethbridge for their upcoming season.

“We’re doing seven shows in six different venues,” summarized New West Theatre artistic director Sharon Peat.
“It‘s been a challenge, but it has been a fun challenge.”

Sharon Peat is excited about New West Theatre’s new season. Photo by Richard Amery
It is one of several changes for the season which include more shows, but shorter runs for some of them.

 The local semi-professional theatre company is not only playing in new venues, but is also giving long time cast members their first opportunities to direct a New West production. Also, due to the renovations after the Summer production of Barndance, Aug. 26, tickets will be sold at the Dr. Penny Foster building downtown as well as at the Enmax Ticket Centre.

“It’s so exciting. It’s like a magical journey,” Peat enthused.
“The fun part is getting to explore different parts of the city,” she continued.

The first show of the season features all Canadian music.
“Homegrown celebrates Canada 150 by focusing on Canadian music,” Peat said, adding New West is taking advantage of the opportunity to celebrate literally homegrown talent from Lethbridge.

The first show of the season, directed by Peat, “Homegrown” running July 5-22. It celebrates Canadian music, and as a pleasant surprise, the cast will be joined by local musicians with John Wort Hannam performing with the cast  for the first week, Jason Poulsen, who often performs with with New West, joining them for the second week and  local country musician Trevor Panczak performing the third week.
“The guests will be performing with the cast in group numbers and will be performing duets with individual cast members and they’ll do an original song so we can see the kind of talent that is home grown,” said Peat, adding they won’t be dancing with the cast.

“We’re not doing that to them,“ she laughed,noting that run will be slightly shorter each week, running from Wednesday -Saturday, as they will be using the Tuesday to rehearse with the guest artists.
 The second summer show , Barn Dance, directed by Jay Whitehead, runs  Aug 8-26.
“It is more modern country that you hear on the radio. Jay is giving it a kind of CMT feel,” she said.

Jay Whitehead is on stage for the first Canadian play of the season, Morris Panych’s comedy Vigil, Nov. 15-25 and New West Theatre veteran Kathy Zaborsky makes her directorial debut with the company.
“It’s a collaboration with Theatre Outre,” said Peat, noting “Vigil” also marks the first play in a new venue- the Trianon Ballroom, downtown, across from Galt Gardens and down the street from the Park Place Mall.

“ It’s about a young man who comes how to take care of his sick aunt. But it is a really funny comedy” she said, adding Whitehead has been cast as the young man, but she isn’t announcing the actress who will be playing the aunt.
“If we get her it will be a real coup for us,“ she said.


“It allows us to create a fresh new look and it is still downtown,” Peat continued.
“Having these different venues may attract people  who have never been to a New West Theatre show,” she said.
“Then we’re moving three blocks down at the new multi-cultural centre for “Christmas Memories.”

“It’s our annual collaboration  with the Lethbridge Big Band which we’ve been doing for six or seven years. They play Christmas favourites with our singers,” she said, adding the show only runs from three performances from Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
New West brings 2017 to a close with their annual “Best of New West” show, which is called Starlight this year, running  in the Chinook High School theatre from Dec. 18-Jan. 6.

“It is the directing debut for Scott Carpenter who has been with us for many years,” Peat continued, noting they chose that location in part of because of the availability of plenty of parking right next to the theatre.
Peat will be writing and directing this year’s Theatre For Young People’s production of Hansel and Gretel.

“We’re back downtown for this show. It’s at Casa in the black box theatre. It is also a shorter run. We‘re running Tuesdays through Saturday from Dec. 26-Jan. 6,” she said.

New West presents Alice Nelson’s one woman comedy Ms. Sugarcoat at the David Spinks Theatre, Feb. 21-24. It was a hit at the Lethbridge Fringe Festival.

Seasons passes will allow patrons to choose either Ms. Sugarcoat or Vigil as the Trianon isn’t handicapped accessible.
“Alice Nelson directed our production of Three Little Pigs two years ago,” she said.
Peat is excited about the entire season.
“But I guess I’m most excited about  Homegrown, because I’m directing it,” she said.

A version of this story appears in the May 24,2017 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor
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