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.