NEW FES­TI­VAL

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JAMES MILLER

Acel­e­bra­tion of cre­ative writ­ing, drama, singing, archival screen­ings and act­ing will be held Sept. 1-3 in Sum­mer­land in recog­ni­tion of the legacy of Cana­dian play­wright George Ryga.

The Mar­ginal Arts Fes­ti­val In­spired by George Ryga will in­clude in­ter­na­tion­ally known pro­fes­sion­als Mark Leiren-Young, Leanna Brodie and Heather Davies, as well as per­for­mances by Okana­gan and na­tional artists.

Ryga is renowned for his ground-break­ing play, The Ec­stasy of Rita Joe, con­sid­ered by crit­ics to be one of the best plays ever writ­ten by a Cana­dian.

His ma­te­rial was in­tro­duced to a new au­di­ence at this year’s Pen­tic­ton Peach Fes­ti­val when rock band Chilli­wack per­formed Sev­en­teenth Sum­mer, a song Ryga penned with the band (then known as The Col­lec­tors) for the stage play Grass and Wild Straw­ber­ries.

Born in ru­ral Al­berta, he spent much of his life in Sum­mer­land and died there in 1987.

“We hope this will be an an­nual, to cre­ate a larger aware­ness of be­ing open to ev­ery­one, in the spirit of George Ryga,” said fes­ti­val board mem­ber Dorthea At­wa­ter. “It will be fairly mod­est this year but we’re thrilled with the sup­port. It’s a first-class line-up that we’re ex­tremely proud of. The pre­sen­ters and mu­si­cians that have been lined up, I’m in awe by the level of ta­lent.”

The event will be a mix of free and tick­eted events with sev­eral work­shops avail­able.

Among the most an­tic­i­pated events is a con­cert by Ryga’s son, Camp­bell Ryga, on Sept. 3 at Cen­tre Stage The­atre. Camp­bell Ryga, a three-time Juno Award win­ning and Grammy-nom­i­nated sax­o­phone player, will per­form with his en­sem­ble. Raised in Sum­mer­land, he has toured in­ter­na­tion­ally on 26 oc­ca­sions — in­clud­ing six ap­pear­ances at the Ha­vana In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val in Cuba.

At­wa­ter said there’s been a void in rec­og­niz­ing Ryga since the old Ryga So­ci­ety of­fi­cially dis­solved sev­eral years ago fol­low­ing the sale of the au­thor’s home in Sum­mer­land. Most of the money left in the ac­count went to stu­dent schol­ar­ships. A group of mostly re­tirees was ap­proached about do­ing some­thing to keep Ryga’s legacy alive and the Ryga Fes­ti­val So­ci­ety was born.

At­wa­ter knew Ryga from his years in Sum­mer­land and she con­sid­ered him to be a re­mark­able in­di­vid­ual.

“He had a wicked sense of hu­mour and he was ab­so­lutely pas­sion­ate about ideas,” she said. “George en­gaged ev­ery­one in con­ver­sa­tion and tried to evoke ar­gu­ments in a friendly way. It was such a warm house­hold to come and visit. George was very aware of cur­rent af­fairs and is­sues to do with pol­i­tics and so­ci­ety. This was in the days be­fore the In­ter­net.”

For de­tails on all events, visit www.marginalarts.ca. Tick­ets for events can be pur­chased on­line at www.eventbrite.ca or in per­son at the fes­ti­val of­fice at 9525 Whar­ton St. in Sum­mer­land, the Sum­mer­land Visi­tors Cen­tre, Tum­ble­weed Gallery in Pen­tic­ton and at the Sum­mer­land Mar­ket on Sun­days.

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