Few people have had an impact on mid-20th century Canadian culture like George Ryga. Beyond producing his own work, the writer, playwright, advocate and longtime Summerland resident inspired and collaborated with many others during a career that continues to resonate.
Celebrating – and continuing – that legacy is the fourth annual Ryga Arts Festival, a multi-disciplinary arts festival showcasing creativity through music, theatre, spoken word, author readings and more, Aug. 24 to Sept. 1.
“The festival really represents the breadth of George’s creativity, and what’s happening here in Summerland. It’s inspiring.” explains festival artistic director Heather Davies. “He really was a primary voice for Canadian culture from 1967 to the late 1980s, working in variety of art forms- and internationally renowned.”
Recognizing both emerging and established artists, amateur and professional, the festival hosts performances, readings and workshops, opening with with Celebration, Aug. 24.
Celebrating the range of Ryga’s writing, performed by many of the professional festival artists, the audience will hear excerpts from The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, and other Ryga plays, enjoy songs from Ryga’s ground-breaking musical, see a screening of Just a Ploughboy, a new documentary film about Ryga’s early life, and more. Performers may include Ahmad Meree, (Adrenaline, Ryga Arts Festival 2017), singer-songwriter david sereda, actors Dick Clements, Roark Critchlow, Tanya Ryga, musicians Tavis Weir, Mia Harris and other special guests.
“The festival is really about the collective community coming together to celebrate the arts,” Davies explains, noting that a nine of the 19 events are accessible by donation, reflecting the inclusive nature of the festival.
Audiences will also enjoy an array of concerts at Centre Stage.
In Acoustic Blend, Aug. 30, Juno Award-winner Ed Henderson shares the acoustic experience through guitar music and story, along with david sereda and a pop-up choir.
And Aug. 31 brings Interweaving, a night of virtuoso artists and activists coming together with the spirit of improvisation that lives in both the Haida culture and jazz improvisation.
Enjoy songs from Grizzly Bear Town a collaboration between Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence; and music from Grass and Wild Strawberries, the album Bill Henderson and Ryga created 50 years ago, as well as talented vocalists Saffron Henderson and Camille Henderson and Juno-award winner Jodi-Proznick.
“So many of the visiting artists have this rich connection with George Ryga – a connection they still feel today and continue to share with others,” Davies says.
New & Notable
New this year is Extended Play Aug. 26, with the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Library, featuring three Okanagan authors – Sophia Jackson, Adam Lewis Schroeder and award-winning Alix Hawley – paired with jazz and wine.
For the full schedule of Ryga Arts Festival events, plus tickets and more information, visit rygafest.ca