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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Olympus!

Kathy Gallant
Published Thursday July 9, 07:16 pm
Sum’s Theatre in the Park is back with a musical take on Hercules

 HERCULES

Runs to Friday 24

Various locations

Every time's a charm when you’re talking about Theatre in the Park, the summertime outdoor live performance series, created by Saskatoon’s Sum Theatre Company.

Entering into its third season, the endeavour will once again bring the city’s plethora of parks alive with a dramatic flair. The professionally produced, 100 per cent free, live productions take place in various neighbourhoods over the span of a few weeks. This year’s production is Hercules. The 2015 series of shows started on July 3 and will run until July 24.

Heather Morrison, artistic producer for Sum Theatre, says that the root idea behind the venture has always been to build stronger communities.

“We believe in the power of community and the power of theatre, and this is a way to celebrate both of those things,” she says. “Theatre in the Park really breaks down any and all financial and social barriers that prevent people from accessing theatre.

“We want to continue to add interesting elements, but we want to always have people feel they are part of the process,” says Morrison. “We saw a seven-week-old baby last summer, and we’ve had people in their 90s come and say it was their first play ever. We want to keep growing the tradition we’ve created, and have people come and have a wonderful night with their families and friends in the park.”

Cast member Jonelle Gunderson says that while preparing for this year’s production she saw firsthand how Theatre in the Park has captivated spectators around the city.

“When we moved the rehearsals outside, there were a couple little girls that came to watch,” she says. “Joel (Bernbaum, Sum’s artistic director) actually knew them by name! I chatted with them for a few minutes and when I had asked if they had heard of Theatre in the Park, one girl piped up and said proudly, ‘Oh yeah, I was in it last year.’”

Morrison says the outdoor aspect of the play is a crucial aspect in allowing the cast and crew to incorporate some unique elements into their production.

“What Joel likes to say is that the sky literally is the limit, so we like to do things with the show that you simply can’t do in a regular theatre,” she says. ”We’ve shot the audience with water balloons and water guns before, and built giant set-pieces to play around with.”

Gunderson agrees, saying that hosting the productions in the open air also adds authenticity to the experience.

“There are clouds, and the actual wind is blowing in our hair,” she says. “There’s also something special about the way our voices carry that adds a certain element of realism to it.”

This year Sum Theatre is going bigger and bolder than ever, with a musical version of the mythical narrative of Hercules.

“This season, we’ve gone truly epic,” says Morrison. “That’s what Hercules is — an epic story for the ages. These types of myths are universal; they’re stories that speak to many people. Big-scale things are going to happen!”

The performances are accompanied by music thanks to music director Christina Cuglietta, says Morrison.

“We’ve added two live musicians this year, an oboe player and a percussionist. The music is original and the score is created for these productions — it’s truly outstanding.”

Gunderson says that from the cast perspective, Hercules has been a joy to prepare for.

“The pace is great,” she adds. “I think that people sometimes have the impression that Theatre in the Park is just for kids, but it’s not. Of course, there will be things children will enjoy — a lot of physical comedy and the like. But the music is gorgeous, and there will be definite nods to the adults in the audience with some of our bits.”

Morrison says this year’s cast is having a great time working together. The group includes Gunderson, Leon Willey, Donovan Scheirer, Aubree Erickson and Dalton Lightfoot. All have ties to the province in various ways, either having grown up here or as part of a previous performance hosted in the city.

“Their chemistry is going to be evident, and they’re all really great singers too,” says Morrison.

Preparing for this year’s play has also been helped immensely by the amount of community support Sum has seen coming in from many different places, says Morrison.

“It’s been amazing. People were asking us when things were going to get started a few months ago. We put out a volunteer call on social media for some postering, and it was done within a few hours. And we truly have some marvelous sponsors and supporters, like our main presenters Sherwood Chevrolet and the City of Saskatoon. [Because of that], we’ve been able to add two new parks this year. The success of these productions relies on community engagement and the hard work of the cast and crew.”

“I think the fact that people are wanting to help more and are excited about a summer of shows in the park is a testament to the work that Sum does throughout the year,” says Gunderson. “With their many other initiatives, and the captivating material they present, it’s not surprising that people want to be a part of this amazing entity.”

Morrison says that she and founding partner Bernbaum share a love of people, and that’s been the driving factor and spirit behind this theatre collective from the start.

“We have a saying that we use in our personal as well as professional lives — help others and have a laugh — and that’s what we try to promote with all our work,” she says.

“We can’t wait to see people come visit us all over the city! We’d love to see our social media engagement as well, and want to have the hashtag #herc out there!”

For more information on dates, times and locations, head to sumtheatre.com.

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