Explore local history with Tree House Youth Theatre

Tree House Youth Theatre is serving up an absolutely unique and fascinating means of dramatically exploring Red Deer’s history as part of this year’s ongoing centennial celebrations.

The ‘Red Deer River Stories’ gala event world premiere of Red Deer’s official Centennial play runs May 30 at 7 p.m. at the Scott Block.

Additional shows run May 31, June 1, 6-8.

Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. There are also matinee shows on June 1 and June 8 at 2 p.m.

Audiences are invited to take a wildly energetic ride through Red Deer’s past, present and future as award-winning Tree House Youth Theatre introduces key figures such as Francis Galbraith, mayor of Red Deer in March of 1913 when Red Deer was incorporated as a City. A scoundrel by the name of Arthur Kelly also surfaces as does the world-famous jersey cow Rosalind of Old Basing.

Besides being a special year for the City of course, 2013 also marks Tree House Youth Theatre’s 25th anniversary, said artistic director Matt Gould. “For us, 25 years in the community – non-stop working with kids – is exciting. So we wanted to make it a big deal.”

Gould’s amazing creative instincts kicked in and he was off and running, exploring facets of the City’s history and crafting a play that would present them in fresh, exciting and ‘layered’ ways. Fourteen young actors have been onboard since last fall as the production has taken shape.

Essentially, different eras from the past 100 years are presented.

Act one is kind of a play within a play – we see young actors from early days who are in a play at that time. “They’re all characters from 1913 in act one, and we set the scene so there’s some backstage action and onstage acting.

“The Red Deer stories are kind of woven into these backstage dynamics – it’s multi-layered in that sense.”

In act two, audiences will find themselves in the drama room at Lindsay Thurber High School in the early 1970s. “The kids are preparing something for Red Deer’s Diamond Jubilee. Again, you are getting the dynamics of the kids as the kids dispersed with scenes that they are going to present to the public. It’s kind of a rehearsal.”

For act three, it’s about asking kids in 1913 what 2013 would be like.

“For me it’s one of the fascinating journeys of this, other than learning about Red Deer and getting a bit more hunkered down in the community. Looking at how people from other periods looked at the future.

“Things were still pretty raw in Red Deer in 1913, so we take this very homey, warm little scene that is quite desperate, and then move into fantasy.”

In the second scene, audiences are transported quite far into the future.

“When I looked at some of the prevailing thoughts of the future from 1973’s perspective, it was things like Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock and 1984. Very bleak, very dark and very ‘big brother’.” The final scene takes place in an unspecified time in the future and that’s pretty much all that will be let out of the bag for now. Except for the fact things end on a hopeful note. Enough said.

“One of the themes for me also, is that the issues and things that teens deal with – love, romance, bullying – it was the same in 1913 as it is now and will be potentially in the future. We’re just people. And that idea of cliques – how they come together and break apart.”

Gould, as with much of what he’s masterfully come up with over the years, has such a knack for visioning the intricacies of a production. He’s open to collaborating with his casts at the same time, but he’s a man who knows what he wants to see ultimately unfold onstage.

He spent time at Red Deer’s archives and learned of the City’s more interesting historical snippets. “And then I just used my own wacky kind of filter, too,” he adds with a laugh. “I fell down the rabbit hole of this research and came up with these little touches.”

He’s also thrilled with his committed cast of young artists. “They are super, 100 per cent into it,” he says. “Some of these kids have also been with me for five years – it’s humbling and unbelievable when I think about it.”

Information and tickets are available by visiting www.treehouseyouththeatre.ca or calling 403-986-0631.