Sylvan Lake Theatre Trail group. (Photo by Harold Fisher)

Sylvan Lake Theatre Trail earned high praise

The new Sylvan Lake Theatre Trail recently wrapped up its final show and actors and audience members alike couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

“It was phenomenal,” said Tanya Ryga, artistic director for the Theatre Trail. “One indication was our ticket sales. We were pretty much sold out even before we had our opening show.”

The Theatre Trail took 15 audience members at a time on a one-kilometre tour of downtown Sylvan Lake, stopping into stores where short plays, with a story specific to that store, were acted out by the Theatre Trail’s actors. A storyteller set the stage for the audience, and in the beginning it was the storyteller’s job to make sure the audience knew what to expect and how to act appropriately.

Zoe Smibert was a storyteller for the Theatre Trail, the first one audience members were introduced to when the trail began.

“I was connecting with the audience, engaging with them,” said Smibert. “The best part about storytelling was blending the history with our own personal experiences in Sylvan Lake. That was a special touch. I got them ignited and excited for the show.”

“We got tons of great feedback,” said Ryga, adding that people approached her afterward to say they wanted to be in the plays next time or part of the crew that developed the shows.

“I know the power of theatre,” said Ryga. “What I did not know was the power of storytelling.”

The Theatre Trail ran shows on Sept. 11, 17 and 18 and each show took about two hours.

The trail started at NexSource Centre and then went to the gazebo at the Lions Legacy Park, then to Eclectica Fashions, the pocket park, Forge Hobbies and Games, Cobbs parking lot, the library, the stone benches outside Dairy Queen and then back to the Viewpoint Lounge in NexSource Centre.

“All the businesses were really excited,” Ryga said, adding that when she approached businesses and asked to develop and perform a play in their store, she was never met with a no.

“We actually had to turn down businesses,” she said. Ryga had wanted to keep the participating businesses fairly close together so the audience could easily walk from one venue to the next.

Going forward, this is just the beginning for the Sylvan Lake Theatre Trail.

“We’re building a performing arts community,” said Ryga. “We want to be very inclusive and involve everyone who wants to participate. We want to take the theatre to the audience.” Playwrights, actors, designers and behind-the-scenes helpers are always in need.

Ryga said she also hopes to develop skills along the way, hosting classes and story circles.

“There is an openness in town to this type of activity,” she said. “We’ve been talking about a collaboration with HJ Cody’s drama department, the Viewpoint Lounge has talked about an improv night.”

“Sylvan Lake is full of creative, talented people,” Smibert added.

Ryga taught acting at Red Deer Polytechnic for 25 years.

For more information, visit Sylvan Lake Theatre Trail on Facebook.

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