Events planned at the Ryga Arts Festival in Summerland – Salmon Arm Observer

The sixth Ryga Arts Festival will host this year’s arts events online and at venues across Summerland.

The festival runs August 14-22 and features a diverse mix of music, theater, spoken word and dance events, with participating artists from Summerland, across British Columbia and as far away as the ‘Italy.

The Ryga Arts Festival celebrates the legacy of George Ryga (1932-1987), the Canadian author and playwright who lived and worked in Summerland. Ryga was one of the most influential playwrights in Canadian history. His work encompasses a variety of genres, including radio and television scripts, novels and poetry. His writing often interweaves themes of identity, indigeneity, social commentary and the role of the artist.

“As we emerge from this difficult and often isolated time, the arts provide an opportunity for us to come together, explore our common humanity and connect with the community,” said Heather Davies, artistic director of the festival.

Musical highlights include folk and British Columbia roots with the duo Pharis and Jason Romero, winner of multiple Juno, CFMA and WCMA awards; Juno and award-winning singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal performing live; Aaron Loewen’s BC Gypsy Jazz All-Stars featuring swing jazz and song cycle preview Twelve crows for the Sun, by George and Sergei Ryga.

“The heartbeat of the festival is inspired by George,” Davies said.

Authors’ readings include Ryga Book Award winner for Social Awareness in Literature Travis Lupick discussing his non-fiction book Fighting for space: How a group of drug addicts transformed a city’s fight against drug addiction.

The fusion of words and musical lineup, Extended Play, is back, celebrating Okanagan writers including Corinna Chong, Brian Thomas Isaac and Joanna Chiu, interspersed with fresh folk music from Kelowna’s Josh + Bex.

After a break in 2020, Franc! an evening of spoken word, poetry and local tales returns.

Theater highlights include two online play readings. The first one, Camping, by Syrian theater artist Ahmad Meree explores the differences between living in a refugee camp and camping the Canadian way.

the play by Mark Leiren-Young, The ecstasy of Georges Ryga, unwraps a slice of Canadian history when one of Ryga’s plays was considered politically too hot to handle. It was half a century ago, in 1971, when Ryga’s play, Captives of a Faceless Drummer, was rejected by the Vancouver Playhouse Theater.

“We want to give a window into the creative process,” Davies said of the play’s readings.

The Summerland Singers and Players will stage Drive the doctor, a play by Penticton playwright Karla Hennig. The play is set during the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago.

The festival will also present Ancestors and Elders, a highly acclaimed film dance production co-created by two renowned companies, the Shumka Dancers and Running Thunder Dancers, exploring the power of tradition and truth. The Shumka dancers are Ukrainian, while the Running Thunder dancers are indigenous.

For information and tickets for the Ryga Arts Festival 2021 event, visit Davies urges people to buy tickets in advance, as events tend to sell out quickly.

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Syrian theater artist Ahmad Meree will present his play Camp-ing at the Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)

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