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Arts & Culture(Archives)


Behind The Curtain at Keyano Theatre - East vs. West

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The East Coast and the West Coast are equally beautiful and equally full of talent but it is often the East our community turns to when booking touring acts and performers - not this time!

If you live in Fort McMurray, or have spent any amount of time in the Wood Buffalo region, you have probably heard the lovable, though sometimes hard to understand, East Coast accents. With over 20 per cent of Fort McMurray residents originally from Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick (Census 2012) there is a strong influence of all things east. A Celtic vibe, Jiggs Dinner on a Sunday night, folk inspired music, and spontaneous kitchen parties are just some of the traditions you might encounter.

West Coast culture is often stereotyped as ‘granola eating, tree-hugging, hippy-loving, and a slow paced lifestyle’;  but as the Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre’s lineup of upcoming shows prove, the West Coast certainly has a free thinking and open-minded view on theatre; and it’s making what is expected to be a memorable appearance in Fort McMurray. Time for the West Coast to shine!

It all started this past November when the Firehall Arts Centre of Vancouver BC, brought to Fort McMurray the phenomenal story of a writer haunted by his tumultuous love life: Chelsea Hotel - The Songs of Leonard Cohen. The script was completely told through the songs and lyrics of Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen and was a beautiful, innovative way to convey the turmoil that was constant in the head of the lead character The Writer played by Jonathan Gould.

The Vancouver Island area obviously has a sense of humour! The Cheesecake Burlesque Revue and The Show Must Go On, both from Victoria BC, are next up in the Syncrude Arts Alive Series and are both sure to get the audience howling. In addition to the January 16 burlesque show, the Cheesecake Girls are hosting what they call SASS CLASS 101. It’s an opportunity for all women (18 +) to let their free-spirited, West Coast divas come out and play. With so much seriousness in the world these days this SASS CLASS 101 allows the gloves to come off, in a fun, sensual way, not in a ‘jump in the ring and duke it out’ kind of way.

The burlesque workshop and performance will not be short on laughter, nor will the comedy act The Show Must Go On—a hilarious and truthful tale of what it’s like to be a touring children’s performer. The one man show’s star Jeff Leard toured across the country for two years performing in elementary school gymnasiums as the fairytale character Rumpelstiltskin getting a variety of reactions from his pint-sized audience members. In May of 2015 at Pacific Contact presented by the BC Touring Council (a type of trade show for touring artists), Leard had Alan Roberts, Director, Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre and Eugene Carnegie, Manager, Facilities, Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre, in stitches as he recounted comical stories of his life in school gymnasiums.  “We were both nearly in tears within the first minute. He has a special way of conveying adult-oriented humour around a children’s subject,” said Carnegie, on why The Show Must Go On was booked for Fort McMurray. “He was phenomenally witty, and easily combined his comedic timing with amazing physical comedy. It’s a type of humour that you just don’t see every day, but you cannot miss.”

There will probably always be a battle between East and West for the title of ‘Best Coast’ but when it comes to the amount of talent each side of the country brings to the stage, they are equally matched. I know I’m looking forward to the laughs these particular West Coast performers will bring to Fort McMurray this spring. 

For more information on upcoming shows, including The Cheesecake Burlesque Revue, their SASS CLASS 101 and The Show Must Go On visit

Chelsea Hotel photo by David Cooper
The Show Must Go On photo by Dahlia Katz
Cheesecake photo by Dani Boynton