July 16th, 2024

The play’s the thing: Playgoers celebrates 100 years on stage

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 14, 2023.

Playgoers of Lethbridge Charles R. Matthews, Kathleen (Lindsay) Barnhill, Douglas Cameron, Vinnie (Burritt) Martin, James Rosewarn are shown in a scene from a Playgoers of Lethbridge production in 1933.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Playgoers of Lethbridge is celebrating a big milestone this year.

It will be a 100 years since their very first meeting took place at St. Augustine Church on Jan. 20, 1923.

“We’re celebrating 100 years and at this point still going strong, and looking forward to continuing for at least another 100,” said Elaine Jagielski, president of the board for Playgoers of Lethbridge.

She said that as far as they are aware, they are the longest continuously running amateur theatre group in Western Canada and one of the oldest nationally.

Jagielski said many factors have played a role in surviving this long, including wars, COVID and whatever else that has come along. She said there has been many theatre groups that came into being and then disappeared within the same amount of time as they have been around.

“I think part of that has been the people who have made up the boards and have made up the club for these years, that they have made responsible choices in regard to the direction of the club, the types of productions, what to do from the financial perspective,” said Jagielski.

She added that the support from the community has been truly the force that has allowed them to continue, because without people coming out to events they wouldn’t be here.

“Without people’s interest, without their support we wouldn’t exist,” said Jagielski.

When it comes to the history behind Playgoers of Lethbridge, Jagielski said the first meeting that took place on Jan. 20, 1923 was between E.G. Sterndale Bennett and H.W. Church, after he responded to a letter in the Herald submitted by Bennett asking if anyone was interested in theatre.

“The two of them met and they persevered, and not long after that in a matter of years the group grew to 800 members, if you think back to Lethbridge you know back in the 1920s, early 1930s, that’s a pretty sizable chunk of the population that were club members, that were part of this theatre group and so that’s how it began,” said Jagielski.

She said when they first started they were focused on getting into the Dominion Festival, which was a national festival that various theatre groups across the country would try to get into because adjudicators would travel from England to adjudicate the Canadian National Amateur Theatre Festival.

“From there, it’s broadened into trying to provide entertainment, what might people be interested in and in more recent years a lot of that has been comedy based,” said Jagielski.

She said the Playgoers of Lethbridge club is open to people interested in all aspects of theatre. From the acting side, to behind the scenes and beyond.

During their centennial celebration on Jan. 20, they will have a Board meeting followed by an open house at St. Augustine Church, to commemorate the first meeting that took place there back in 1923. The open house will take place at 3:00 p.m.

Jagielski said that during the open house is a great opportunity for those interested in joining the club to stop by and learn more about it.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for people who have an interest, whether they have experience in theatre at all, or even if they don’t but they want to learn, we love mentoring people as well,” said Jagielski.

Other events are planned throughout the year to celebrate the centennial milestone.

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