Arts Work Article
SAA's Arts Work series highlights an arts organization making a positive impact in its community: Swift Current’s Lyric Theatre? “is the heartbeat of the community and a real beacon of light for us”. This article was written by Dave Margoshes.
It began life, over a century ago, as a vaudeville and silent movie theatre. Over its long life, it has also been a billiards hall, a bowling alley, a disco and a succession of bars.
About a dozen years ago, a group of volunteers banded together as the Southwest Cultural Development Group to save Swift Current’s Lyric Theatre. And now, under the leadership of newly hired artistic director Gordon McCall, the Lyric is coming into its own once again.
To a mix of music (the Blenders concert series), literature (the Write Out Loud readings), improv, the annual Chautauqua (sort of mini fringe festival) and a host of other events (such as stand-up comedians, talent shows, and fund-raisers), McCall, an old theatre hand, has added an ambitious dramatics program.
Before his arrival last spring, the Lyric “had a jam-packed calendar, but one thing that was missing was self-produced theatre,” McCall says. He wasted no time changing that. A three-play stage season dubbed “Sparks in the Dark: Plays to Ignite the Imagination” got off to a rousing start with a week-long run in September of Mary’s Wedding, a romance set in Wold War I by Alberta playwright Stephen Massicotte. The play features two Saskatchewan actors (one from Swift Current), underscoring McCall’s commitment to use local talent as much as possible. He also saw a need for educational programming and initiated a summer project called the Fairy Tale Factory that involved a dozen kids “and we created our own fairy tale, ‘The Unicorn Must Live.’ The demand is high for more.”
The Lyric, McCall says, “is the heartbeat of the community and a real beacon of light for us.” The theatre “has been beloved by this community for years, and it’s become even stronger because there’s something for everyone.”
This isn’t just self-serving talk.
Hugh Hood, a former director of the Swift Current museum, notes that “The community has come to realize that a place for the performing arts was needed and that it adds value to community life.” According to Terry Toews, one of the organizers of Write Out Loud, “The Lyric's importance can't be overstated, really. Swift Current would be a much less interesting and vibrant place without it.”
McCall points to the theatere’s new logo, in colours that evoke stained glass, and a “rebranding as ‘The Lyric Presents,’” as “a way to respect the past while being very modern. We’re really excited about the possibilities.”
The Lyric will soon be extending its reach even further. McCall, who founded Saskatoon’s celebrated Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan summer festival years ago, will be replicating that success next summer when he unveils the first production in the new “Shakespeare in Speedy Creek” – a tip of the hat to Swift Current’s nickname. The appropriate choice – A Midsummer’s Night Dream – will be mounted in a tent in a city park, though, not at the Lyric itself. “Right on the Trans-Canada, we’re in a really good spot for another Shakespeare festival.”
McCall will also be helming the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games, to be held in Swift Current next summer.
“People are really excited about what we’re doing. We’re going to be doing magical things.”