THE BLOG
07/09/2014 05:09 EDT | Updated 09/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Small-Town Alberta Theatre Is A Big Deal

As I watched Rosebud Theatre's brilliant performance of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" on stage for the first time, I began to quickly see why so many people from Alberta make the trip to Rosebud, located 35 kilometres southwest of Drumheller (a 25-minute drive) and 100 km (one-hour drive) northeast of the Calgary airport.

ROSEBUD, ALBERTA -- I was in town to check out Rosebud Theatre and I wasn't sure what to expect.

This is one of Alberta's premier entertainment companies and the only professional rural theatre in the province. It has a solid reputation for high-quality live performances but I had never heard of it in my life. And I'm guessing neither had you. Can anyone blame us? Seriously, how could something that good be this hidden?

The hamlet of Rosebud is truly a little dot in the middle of Alberta's Badlands. I could tell you that you're going to be blown away by this tiny locale. I could tell you that you'll be awestruck by the architecture and chaos of a thriving, "hold onto your hat" community.

The truth? No outstanding architecture here, although there are nice buildings with a unique, welcome-home feel. Chaos? The only chaos that will cause you to hold onto your hat is a strong wind. And the fact there is supposedly a renowned theatre here didn't make much sense because from what I could see there were only a handful of buildings around Rosebud's few intersections. This place couldn't be more country if Travis Tritt himself showed up for a beer and the only thing that seemed to be missing from this picture were stereotypical tumbleweeds.

No, Rosebud probably won't blow you away -- at first. But park your car, stretch your legs, meet the people, check out one of the galleries or gift shops, enjoy a buffet at Rosebud Mercantile or a tart at the Thorny Rose Cafe next door...and then take in a play at the theatre and you'll quickly discover why Rosebud is one of the province's favourite stops.

It's fair to say that my outlook had been hardened somewhat by past experiences. If we're going to call a spade a spade, small-town productions tend to be mediocre at best. But as I watched Rosebud Theatre's brilliant performance of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" on stage for the first time, I began to quickly see why so many people from Alberta make the trip to Rosebud, located 35 kilometres southwest of Drumheller (a 25-minute drive) and 100 km (one-hour drive) northeast of the Calgary airport.

The theatre has been around for 30 years and started out as a part of Rosebud School of the Arts. Among the many awards Rosebud Theatre has received is Travel Alberta's "Alberta Pride" ALTO Award, the Rural Tourism Champion award and recognition from the Rozsa Awards. The theatre produces four mainstage shows, attracting more than 35,000 patrons per year to the hamlet of about 100 people. Every year, these fans make a point of getting out to Rosebud to see the latest play that this talented group of actors and supporting crew have to present. The productions are complemented by dining, art galleries, museums, and shopping. This year, director of production and general manager Mark Lewandowski makes it clear that what's being served up is a heaping helping of chicken.

"We just closed 'Diary of Anne Frank', which went really well for us. We've opened on our studio stage 'I, Claudia', which was a student final project," says Lewandowski. "All of our students are required to complete a final project in their final year as part of graduation. And our artistic director liked this play so much, it was so impactful, that he wanted to see it in our season, so that more people could have a chance to see it.

"We're also opening up our home-grown summer blockbuster, which is called Chickens. It was written by one of our graduates 20 years ago, and the music was done by a number of people here in Rosebud. It's a story about a guy who is losing his farm. One day he gets seduced by a chicken at a farm auction and he brings her home," Lewandowski says of the play written by Lucia Frangione.

Story by Rod Charles, Vacay.ca Writer.

To read the rest of the story on Vacay.ca, click here.