Singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal is one of the performers scheduled for this year’s Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)

Singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal is one of the performers scheduled for this year’s Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)

Events scheduled for Ryga Arts Festival in Summerland

Festival in Summerland will feature theatre, music and more

The sixth annual Ryga Arts Festival will hold this year’s arts events online and at venues throughout Summerland.

The festival will be held Aug. 14 to 22, and features a diverse blend of music, theatre, spoken word and dance events, with participating artists from Summerland, across British Columbia and as far away as Italy.

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.

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“As we emerge from this challenging and often-isolating time, the arts offer us the opportunity to come together, explore our shared humanity and connect with community,” said Heather Davies, artistic director for the festival.

Music highlights include B.C. folk and roots with multi-Juno, CFMA and WCMA award-winning duo Pharis and Jason Romero performing live; Juno and multi-award-winning singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal performing live; Aaron Loewen’s B.C. Gypsy Jazz All-Stars with swing jazz and a sneak-peek of the song cycle Twelve Ravens for the Sun, by George and Sergei Ryga.

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

Author readings include Ryga Book Award for Social Awareness in Literature winner Travis Lupick discussing his non-fiction book Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction.

The fusion of words and music programming, Extended Play, is back, celebrating Okanagan authors including Corinna Chong, Brian Thomas Isaac and Joanna Chiu, interspersed with fresh folk music from Kelowna-based Josh + Bex.

After a pause in 2020, Outspoken! an evening of local spoken word, poetry and storytelling returns.

Theatre highlights include two online play readings. The first, Camp-ing, by Syrian theatre artist Ahmad Meree explores the differences between life in a refugee camp and camping, Canadian-style.

Mark Leiren-Young’s play, The Ecstasy of George Ryga, unpacks a slice of Canadian history when one of Ryga’s plays was considered too politically hot to handle. This was half a century ago, in 1971, when Ryga’s play, Captives of a Faceless Drummer, was rejected by the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.

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

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

The festival will also present Ancestors and Elders, a highly acclaimed filmed 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 2021 Ryga Arts Festival event information and tickets, visit rygafest.ca. Davies urges people to purchase tickets in advance, as the events tend to sell out quickly.

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

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