Tree House Youth Theatre is currently offering up a very unique interpretation of Red Deer’s history called Red Deer River Stories.
Performances continue June 6-8 at the Scott Block, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. A matinee also runs June 8 at 2 p.m.
Directed by Matt Gould, Red Deer River Stories opts to reflect on the City’s history in unconventional ways, and it works particularly well in the first and second act. Act one takes audiences back to 1913 – the year of Red Deer’s designation as a City.
The Lyric Theatre is the setting and we watch students from the High School Literary Society present ‘An Evening of Entertainment’ to mark Red Deer’s shift change from town to City status.
Gould’s astounding creativity as writer/director shines through, and is bolstered by his troupe’s solid performances. The cast is superb in their various roles – not to mention their extensive memorization work. They include Aiden Olley, Aidan Sullivan, Alandra Powers, Alex Wozny, Allison Weninger, Ben Berg, Cameron Chapman, Chelsey Fitsimons, Colton Mayne, Duncan Macaulay, Karley Bodnarchuk, Sean Traverse, Shae Hayes, Sydney Malyon and Warren Stephens.
And the first act provides them with plenty to work with. Besides the ‘show’ presented by the cast of Literary Society students, we also see some of the typical kinds of teen drama backstage. It’s a nice touch to the show – and we learn fascinating elements to the City’s history as well.
That same originality continues with the second act, which whisks audiences to Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in 1973, where drama students have created a program to mark Red Deer’s 60th anniversary of landing City status. Watching the cast create several tableaux vivants (living pictures) was particularly enjoyable – they nailed the nature and spirit of these old-time portraits that reflect early settlers’ lives and experiences.
The third act opens promisingly with a scene called ‘Tomorrow and Beyond’ which takes place in the local hospital in 1913. One boy keeps his friend, who is battling tuberculosis, company with stories about what the future might look like. There are lots of strong moments here to be sure, and again, Gould’s knack for storytelling shines through.
Never one to be restrained by conventionality, he nails the nuances of local history in fresh and vivid new ways.
That carries over into the final two scenes of the third act, which in my opinion, are interesting but don’t really add to the overall power and appeal of Red Deer River Stories.
The darker feel of scenes like ‘Aspire, Acquire’ and the sensibilities of ‘The Pale Blue Dot’, though cleverly executed and well-acted, feel quite far removed from the good-natured and compelling character of the first two acts. There are many points that are being made regarding both current and futuristic issues – and they’re good points – but I couldn’t help but feel this wasn’t the best setting for them to be made in.
But that’s just my humble opinion. When all is said and done, Gould and company should be commended for their commitment to pulling off another production that aims to tell a story – the Red Deer story – in creative new ways. There’s no denying that plenty of hard work and heart went into every facet of Red Deer River Stories. For that alone, they should be congratulated.
More information and tickets are available by visiting www.treehouseyouththeatre.ca.