For children, it’s become a summertime treat in many cities. Now outdoor theatre is entertaining youngsters in Lethbridge.
This week University of Lethbridge drama students and professors launched “Hootenanny,” offering lively daytime shows in Galt Gardens each week, Wednesday through Saturday until the end of July.
The free half-hour presentations, at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., use music, costumes and plenty of action to keep young viewers’ attention. The performers’ bright red noses add to the fun.
“I was involved in children’s theatre in Calgary,” says Nicola Elson. The Wagonstage productions there have run for many years.
But Elson, now a member of the drama faculty at U of L, and colleague Julia Wasilewski learned there haven’t been summertime shows for children here for quite some time. And she found a number of drama students who were interested in the idea.
They began work in early June, she says, sharing ideas on what story they’d tell.
What emerged, Elson says, is a show that focuses on diversity, inclusivity and community. Rather than being frightened by something that seems “different,” children learn the world is full of variety and wonder.
Bringing that story to life are drama students Kenya Gimson, Erik Hohmann and Jon Zimmer, with Tyler Strang — fully costumed as well — as stage manager.
To reinforce the message of inclusion, Elson says invitations have been extended to a number of groups and programs operating over the summer — like the Family Centre, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club — as well as groups linked with the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association.
“We’re also making an effort to create a relationship with people here in the park,” she adds.
“Hootenanny” also offered children’s activities in the park after taking part in the Lethbridge Pride Fest parade, she adds.
While the first performances in Galt Gardens were July 3, Elson says there was strong response to several preview events at Henderson Park on Canada Day.
“It was really positive,” she says. “Lots of people enjoyed our production.”
In Galt Gardens, the show “wagon” and performances will be located north of the popular spray park.
If there’s rain, the show will move to the main floor of the university’s Penny Building down the road on 5 Street South.