By Spencer Van Dyk, Crag & Canyon
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 12:21:23 MDT PM
After three consecutive preview nights, Banff Live Theatre is “alive and kicking,” according to writer-director-producer Bridget Ryan, and set to officially launch Thursday night.
“I’m exhausted, I’m excited, I’m thrilled, I’m nervous, I’m everything,” Ryan said.
The summer-long theatre production, set to run from June 22 to Sept. 3 at the Lux Theatre, is a passion project of Ryan’s, who is one half of the local Carter-Ryan brand with her partner Jason Carter.
Carter is the set designer and co-producer of the shows.
There are three different shows, each running six days a week, put on by five cast members from across Western Canada.
The preview show gave audience members a taste of each, and allowed for a glimpse into the 10-hour-rehearsal days of the cast who met just three weeks ago.
“It’s been crazy rehearsing three shows at once,” said Banff-born-and-raised cast member Sarah Irwin. “I just have so many songs in my head.”
“Three weeks ago, we didn’t even know each other, and now we’re a band,” joked Calgary-based cast member Greg Wilson at Monday night’s preview, which was attended by Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen.
“And then we decided to put on a show, but not one, three,” Ryan said.
The 2 p.m. show, The Adventures of the Curious Bear in a Red Canoe, is geared towards children and families.
It tells the story of a bear cub who happens upon a red canoe and sets out for adventure, on the way meeting “all the fabulous animals,” who “may or may not, wink wink, all get in the canoe,” Ryan said.
Ryan said it’s a big dance piece consisting of storytelling and music, that is narrative but largely non-verbal, and is all about inclusivity.
“It’s kind of like a Canadian version of Peter and the Wolf,” she said.
It’s also a nod to Carter’s work, and the set is designed to feel like stepping into one of his paintings.
The 4 p.m. show, The Mavericks of the Mountains, tells the story of the people who made Banff what it is today.
The 60-minute show features real-life characters, including some of Ryan’s favourites, Norman Luxton, Mary Schaffer Warren, and Bill Peyto, and even some guest appearances by the Brewsters and the Whytes.
“It is homage to Banff,” said Ryan, who’s a self-proclaimed lover of history. “It’s a love letter to Banff.”
She said she hopes it’ll send people to places like the Whyte Museum or the Luxton Museum, where they can learn more about “what this place is about.”
The final show, at 7 p.m., is Canada the Musical, and its actors do double-duty as musicians covering our country’s musical history.
Ryan said it’s the perfect opportunity for people to share in their “unabashed” love of Canadian music, where the cast covers everything from early folk tunes to Rush.
“It’s just like ‘great, you like Canadian music, here it is’,” she said.
Wilson will also host improv nights with the rest of the cast three nights a week, Thursdays, Fridaysand Saturdays at 9 p.m.
Attendees of the previews were given complimentary popcorn, swag bags and beer. All of the shows will be licensed throughout the summer.
“I was nervous but I feel really good now that’s done and that we did it for an audience and people liked it,” said Irwin, who’s been in Toronto but has moved back to do the show.
Ryan said the Banff community has been incredibly supportive of both her and Carter’s projects.
“There’s lots of energy that’s happening, and people keep saying Banff is going to be crazy this summer, and from what I’ve seen there’s a real energy in this community that is impossible not to feed off of,” she said last month.
Performances are at the Lux Theatre. Tickets are $15 for children and seniors, and $25 for adults, and can be purchased at banfflivetheatre.com.