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14 - PRAIRIE POST - SPECIAL AREAS - June 2013 Hanna arts scene a lot more than Nickelback

BY TIM KALINOWSKI When you grow up in the country,

you learn to do things for yourself. Want to know about the world? Read a book.Want to get some fresh produce? Grow a garden.Want to see top-quality arts and entertainment in your community? Put on a play, arrange for an artist to visit or open a local art gallery. This is the country way, and this is

what motivates many in the Hanna arts scene. Linda Tomlinson, of Front Row Centre in Hanna, says her group wants to help expand the horizons of what is

possible in town, and change the way the community of 2,700 thinks about the arts. “We want to provide a real variety of

different things that maybe people wouldn’t have the opportunity to see,” says Tomlinson. “The arts are here, but they’ve kind of been under the radar. I don’t think we have ever really promoted it very much.” Front Row Centre has brought in

many quality acts the last few years including Ballet Kelowna, Montreal Guitar Trio and Sylvia Tyson’s group Quartet to perform in Hanna. Tomlinson says the enthusiastic audience response reveals a real hunger for more arts in the community.

“It was a tough go at first, but

we are definitely building a reputation now. There wasn’t a lot in terms of professional performing arts available here. Our audiences are so appreciative of the talent they see.”

In conjunction with their mission to bring in professional arts and performances, Front Row Centre also encourages local artists to get out there and be active

in the

community. To this end, Tomlinson says they also sponsor a regular “Starry Night Cafe” which shines the spotlight on local performers. “We have wonderful artists in town and people do not even know they are here. At Front Row Centre we want to be a vehicle for artistic growth in our area, and expression,” says Tomlinson. Stage Hanna has been putting on locally-produced and cast musicals and plays in the community for more than 50 years. Bonnie Nikota of Stage Hanna says she, like many in the community, got her first taste of public performance in one the troupe’s plays. “I’ve been on stage since junior high. And most of the people that help out, or are involved, with Stage Hanna have been involved in some form for many years,” says Nikota. Nikota says Hanna’s historic

isolation and its strong sense of community has made Stage Hanna an important part of cultural life in the area. “We want to put on a show for our community. And it’s so fun to do. We feel it’s important to give people here the opportunity to stay in their community and take part in these kinds of plays.” During Stage Hanna’s annual musical, more than 100 people in the area take part in the performance. There are 50 actors and singers on

stage and about the same amount of people behind the scenes making costumes, designing sets and overseeing the sound and lighting. It’s a monumental effort for the small community, but Nikota says people in Hanna understand how important it is to support the arts through local theatre. “We have a lot of creative people in this community, and some wonderful singers and performers. Things like Stage Hanna allow local singers and actors, who might not have a chance to perform otherwise, to get their feet wet on stage. And it creates an event which brings the whole community together,” says Nikota. And, in the end, that’s what it’s all

about. It’s not the song, the dance or the painting which is important — it’s how these things bring people in Hanna together. Hanna may be a little off the beaten

track, but its vibrant arts community attests to a town confident in its future and certain of its identity.

Photos courtesy Hanna Herald

(Top row: left to right): Ballet Kelowna performance on October 17, 2012; Lizzy Hoyt (middle) on the fiddle and singer and acoustic guitar player Trina Wallace (right) have both graced Stage Hanna with their performances.

Stage Hanna has grown in popularity. Last year, they put on a popular show, Grease.

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