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Oldest theatre group in Western Canada marks 100 years

Click to play video: 'Canadian theatre group celebrating a century'
Canadian theatre group celebrating a century
One of the oldest amateur theatre groups in Canada is celebrating a major milestone and turning 100. Jaclyn Kucey speaks to longtime members and their hope for the future – Jan 23, 2023

At first glance, Lethbridge isn’t the first place you’d expect to see a booming historic theatre scene, but for the last century, The Playgoers of Lethbridge have been bringing an array of entertainment to audiences in the windy city.

The amateur theatre group’s humble beginnings started on Jan. 20, 1923, when founder E. G. Sterndale Bennett held a meeting at St. Augustine’s church and only one person attended.

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Elaine Jagielski, current president of Playgoers, said from there they quickly gained more than 800 members. The group is considered the oldest amateur theatre group in Western Canada and one of the oldest in the country.

“If you think of the population in the late ’20s and early ’30s and to have 800 people belong to… The Playgoers Club, that’s a pretty sizeable chunk that were interested,” said Jagielski, who’s been a member for 25 years.

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“(The group has been) through wars, through different financial situations, and even through COVID-19 most recently,” said Jagielski, reflecting on the challenges the group has gone through.

Click to play video: 'Performing arts groups facing financial difficulties in southern Alberta'
Performing arts groups facing financial difficulties in southern Alberta

The club currently has 100 members and continues to produce a full season of shows every year.

To celebrate a century, the Playgoers have a full schedule of events, including hosting the provincial one-act festival in May.

“I want to be a part of making sure this legacy continues,” said Shelley David, secretary of the Playgoers of Lethbridge.

The group is currently in rehearsal for their first production of the year, The Play That Goes Wrong, opening at the Yates Memorial Theatre on Feb. 7.

“We have the same quality in Lethbridge, and I think that has often been overlooked,” said David. “My hope is that with the centennial year and the buzz that’s surrounding that will help reinforce the idea that you don’t have to drive to Calgary to see a great show.

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“You just have to head to the Yates.”

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