No week to stay home: festivals, musicals, plays, improv … E-town stages are full of possibilities

Paper Planet, Polyglot Theatre. Photo supplied

By Liz Nicholls,

This is no week to stay home, my theatre-loving friends. 

For one thing, the summer festival season really begins: the 38th annual Kids’ Fest Tuesday, Nextfest Thursday. The 28th Die-Nasty season, Lord of Thrones, reaches its grand finale (possibly its apotheosis) tonight. E-town’s first professional production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal in three decades or more continues at Fringe Theatre headquarters, the Arts Barn. There’s Sondheim: Foote in the Door’s production of A Little Night Music opens Friday.  There’s a new production from Rising Sun Theatre. 

And, for those revellers inclined to a short summer road trip, there’s news from The Old Trout Puppet Workshop.

Consider the choices, and read on. 

•On a new planet made entirely of paper, the imagination is king.

The moment for an excursion to a forest world of giant cardboard trees and paper vines and flowers is at hand. Yes, the St. Albert Kids’ Fest has returned to the banks of the mighty Sturgeon: the 38th annual edition of the international festivities starts Tuesday and runs through Sunday.

Paper Planet, Polyglot Theatre. Photo supplied.

Paper Planet, the work of Australia’s Polyglot Theatre, invites kids and their larger-scale companions to populate the world with creations of their own — armed with paper, tape, and a sense of infinite possibility.

The immersive performance/ art installation piece, which defies any of the usual categories of entertainment, is one of the featured performances in the Kids’ Fest lineup. Li Liu is a glimpse into the gravity defying world of Chinese acrobatics. Honk!, a musical version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, a droll and poignant chronicle of a misfit (it couldn’t be more topical in these parlous times), is the contribution of the St. Albert Children’s Theatre.

Dance, puppetry, music, theatre, workshops, outdoor performances, activities both free and not… detailed information about the lineup and the schedule is at Tickets: Arden box office (780-459-1542) or Ticketmaster (1-855-985-5000,

Lord of Thrones. It was before Halloween in the year 2018 that the 28th season of Die-Nasty began in the Kingdom of Pretenderos. Old Strathconia, the king was dead. Murdered! Chaos was unleashed on the world. So was a dragon. And a whole bunch of characters.

Four great Houses, in ancient deadly conflict: an epic-sized plot  — inspired by the insane complications of Game of Thrones and improvised every Monday by deluxe Die-Nasty improvisers since Oct. 22 — was unknown in advance, to the participants as well as the audience. And now, many great battles and mighty song-and-dance production numbers later, we approach the grand finale of Lord of Thrones, this very evening at the Varscona. Will there be resolution? Will the threads be woven together to create a landscape? Will the dead return to claim their subplots? Will there be smouldering gazes into the mid-distance of the future, and flashbacks to the violent past?

OK, no one knows yet; it’s improv. Be there tonight to find out (7:30 p.m.). It’s your appointment with destiny.

Ghost Opera, The Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Photo by Jason Stang

•It was only a matter of time before The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, the troupe that have redefined puppet theatricality in highly original ways, ventured into opera. Ghost Opera, a collaboration between the Old Trouts, composer Veronika Krausas, novelist André Alexis, and Calgary Opera, is spun from an ancient Greek ghost story. Ananke, according to Trout muse Judd Palmer (in Opera Canada), is “the ancient Greek goddess of the way nothing ever turns out the way you think it will.” Which might be a mantra for theatre generally, come to think of it.

The world is about to discover the musical range of ghosts. And the narrative seems right up the alley of the Trouts, with their appetite for the comically macabre (Famous Puppet Death Scenes, The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan).

Ghost Opera opens Thursday in Calgary, at the Grand Theatre downtown. Tickets:

Brian Chee and friend, Fantastic Creatures, Rising Sun Theatre. Photo supplied.

•Rising Sun Theatre premieres their latest, Fantastic Creatures, Saturday at the Nina Haggerty Arts Centre (9225 118 Ave.). A company of artists with developmental or cognitive disabilities, Rising Sun creates original work, under the mentorship of guest professionals — this season director Dhana Cartmell, Megan Verbeek, Kate Ryan, and movement/choreography specialist Amber Borotsik.

Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday shows, 4:30 and 2:30 p.m. respectively: pay what you can, at the door.

•The glamorous life: Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical A Little Night Music, inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, is the work of the musical theatre company Foote in the Door. Mary- Ellen Perley’s production of this entrancing masterwork work opens Friday at La Cité francophone (8627 91 St.) and runs through June 8. Tickets: TIX on the Square (780-420-1757,

Cody Porter, Elena Porter, Chris W. Cook in Betrayal. Photo by Ryan Parker.

•Betrayal, Harold Pinter’s intricate but thrillingly accessible 1978 drama, gets a fine production from Broken Toys Theatre. It continues through Sunday at the Studio Theatre in the ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330- 84 Ave.). Tickets: 780-409-1910, See the REVIEW here.

Nextfest, that innovative celebration of emerging arts and artists, opens its 24th annual edition Thursday at Theatre Network’s Roxy on Gateway: More than 500 artists, 90-plus “events” of every description, including a new mural for Strathcona.  More about these inspirational 11-day festivities, devoted to creative experiments from the next generation, soon. Meanwhile check out the lineup at




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