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Sylvan Lake Theatre Company continues to flourish

Those with a passion for all things theatre will be excited to see the continued expansion of the Sylvan Lake Theatre Company.
Pictured here are Zoe Smibert and Sarain Frank Soonias - both part of the Sylvan Lake Theatre Company. Photo submitted

Those with a passion for all things theatre will be excited to see the continued expansion of the Sylvan Lake Theatre Company.

The company’s artistic director, Tanya Ryga, retired from the Red Deer Polytechnic theatre studies program in 2018 and was immediately interested in launching a creative venture here in town.

“In 2018, I approached the town about getting some theatre going,” she said, and things started moving quickly from the get-go.

Plans were taking shape for a Theatre Trail experience, where several plays were developed and presented at various locations around town in a single event.

“The scripts were done and then COVID hit, so we stopped for two years. But then we picked it up again this past June. Wendy Thurston also came forward (at the time) to co-found the theatre with me,” said Ryga.

“A Theatre Trail is an immersive theatre experience where we partner with four businesses downtown,” she explained. A short play was created for each spot, with each venue in mind.

Storytellers were also a part of the experience, guiding the audiences to the next venue for the next performance.

“Along the way, they stop and a story unfolds,” she said. “Each story somehow tied into Sylvan Lake’s history but was personalized as well. It was all very entertaining and amusing, and sometimes even romantic,” she said. “We wanted people to have an experience along the way.

“So by the time the Trail is over, you’ve kind of touched in on eight interesting events in the town - four of which are based in history and four which are fictitious.”

And while performances were going on in a particular venue, normal business activity was also taking pace - so it was an ideal and fun way to showcase the Sylvan Lake Theatre Company as well, she said,

Ultimately, it was an engaging time and also proved to be a major hit with the community.

“It was super successful, and we had people come from around the province,” she said

“The audiences were in small groups, and altogether, we did 16 performances of the Theatre Trail. It was really a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

A follow-up survey showed that folks were really supportive of seeing growth in the local arts scene overall.

Ryga said it was also a rich time of connecting and growing the Company - she went from initially working with just a few people to seeing a strong community of some 40 people come together to support the project.

“It really was a community effort, and the town (staff) was also phenomenal.

“So that was what we aimed for - it was our big project and one that we are going to stick with because it is unique,” she said. “I can see it growing. And because it’s also about the town in a fun, interpretive and contemporary way, it’s going to stick.”

Ryga noted that support is also solid for the company as a whole. “We just did a show this past Saturday and it was packed,” she said, referring to the Comedy Night Live event on Jan. 28 in the Nexsource Centre.

Looking ahead, there is much going on in the way of planning, said Ryga.

“The Theatre Trail will be our anchor piece, and it’s a really good way to involve as many local people as we can,” she said.

And right around the corner is an acting intensive workshop that will run through March and April.

Beyond that, other highlights include more teaching opportunities, workshops, and readings. Another recent survey also showed that a resounding 98 percent of respondents would like to see dinner theatre performances here in town as well.

For Ryga, it’s wonderful to see the company come together and truly take off.

And it really takes a community of dedicated folks to pull it all together, she added, referring to the town’s support, the volunteer help, the community partners, and the many local individuals who have joined forces to bring the dream of having a local theatre company to the forefront.

“We have no lack of ideas, and because everyone is volunteering like crazy, we have no lack of people,” she said, adding that the one thing the company does need is a dedicated space.

“Meanwhile, there is a lot going on - not just in the way of theatre production and training, but also in partnering with the business community, the Chamber of Commerce and service clubs, and whoever else is out there with like-minded goals to get things really cooking.”

For more about Sylvan Lake Theatre Company, head to or find them on Facebook or Instagram.

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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