By Nancy Cherniwchan
When a friend asked if I’d like to go to Rosebud Theatre to see their latest play: Bright Star by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (yeah, the famous ones!), I jumped at the chance to get out of town. I’d heard a lot about the theatre, the town and the experience, but had never taken the time to leave the comfort of going west on weekends to head east instead. Planning a date with my husband usually sounds like this:
“What do you want to do?”
“What do you want to do?”
“I’ll do whatever you want to do”
“We could do the same thing we did on our last date?”
“Should we just watch Netflix?”
But now, I had a cool little adventure planned for me and my hubby.
With lattes in hand and ‘Vampire Weekend’ on the stereo, we jumped in our old car. Feeling lighthearted and carefree, we opened the sunroof and threw our arms in the air like we were in one of those cheesy travel commercials. Then we promptly closed the sunroof as it’s only April. It’s an easy 90 minute drive from Calgary to Rosebud, which is situated on the edge of the Canadian Badlands. We coasted through the open prairies, passing a bevy of migrating swans and seeing hard-working farmers out preparing their fields for planting before we sunk into a delightful valley and the quaint Hamlet of Rosebud.
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We had some time to stroll through Rosebud before lunch and found ourselves at Kith & Kin, a charming store offering items created by local artisans. I found the perfect gift for my husband’s birthday, a lovely handcrafted birdhouse. The male lead actor in Bright Star, Travis Friesen, is a proprietor of this awesome little shop, adding further significance to my purchase. Just down from Kith & Kin, we found an old travel chest filled with local Rosebud honey; you gotta love a place where the honour system is a way of doing business. There’s something about a small town in the middle of the prairies that makes a person walk slower, breathe easier and find enjoyment in unexpected things.
At a snail’s pace, we made our way to the Haskayne Kenney Mercantile where we knew lunch was waiting. We received a warm welcome at the Rosebud Theatre Box Office and were given our tickets for lunch and the 1:30 show. (There are also evening performances with dinner included.)
We were ushered to our table in the Parlor area of the restaurant which is decorated with lace curtains, fabric bows, antique collectables and an original stone fireplace, no longer in use but still creating a sense of warmth. Our server quickly brought me the refreshing ‘Bright Star’ special: gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda. My husband had a ‘Legal issue’, a local ale brewed in the nearby town of Strathmore, where the barley is grown on a fifth-generation family farm. Let’s just say he had trouble stopping at one!
During lunch, community members and students from the Rosebud School of the Arts act as the hosts, servers and musical entertainment. There were three lovely ladies singing and roaming the dining room: Emily Nelson, Allison Gordon and Esther Koepnick. Unexpectedly, they decided to sing one of our wedding songs, “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, turning an already wonderful date with my husband into a magnificent one! We piled our plates with everything from healthy salads, salmon lox, eggs benedict and roast beef done to perfection and, savoring every mouthful, soon had them polished clean. Then we moved on to the dessert room. Yes! There’s so many desserts they take up an entire room! I scarfed back a homemade apple crisp that seemed to evaporate from my plate. ‘Yummy’ sounds were coming out of my husband as he ate a creamy cheesecake slathered with blueberries, strawberries, whipped cream AND chocolate sauce.
At about 1:15 pm, we rolled ourselves across the street to the Rosebud Opera House for the performance. There was a nice energy walking into the beautifully maintained theatre that intimately holds 220 people. Theater in the city usually means fighting traffic, wrestling for parking, lining up for your last bathroom call, forgetting your tickets and skidding into your seat 10 minutes after the play has started. Here, peacefully arriving 15 minutes before curtain, fed, watered and relaxed, heightened our enjoyment of the performance.
Bright Star at Rosebud Theatre
Inspired by a real event, Bright Star has been loosely described as a bluegrass musical set in North Carolina in the 1920’s and 1940’s. Alice Murphy meets a young soldier, Billy Cane, who has just returned from World War II. Billy is full of life, energy and dreams. Alice feels an indescribable connection to this young man and is compelled to journey into her sad past. The story holds beautiful moments, colourful characters, silliness and heart. The voice of Alice Murphy (Alixandra Cowman) fills the theatre and pulls the audience into her heartache. I could hear their soft cries as Alice painfully discovers her truth. The talent of the actors/musicians is incredible. Several of them play more than one character and also, more than one instrument during the performance. It was apparent that the audience had been captivated, inspired and touched by this very relatable human story, showing their gratitude with resounding applause.
As we were leaving the town, my husband saw a sign and slammed on the brakes turning left into the Rosebud Country Inn. There’s not a ton of accommodation in Rosebud, and this is definitely where you’ll want to stay if overnighting. Anyway, the sign read, ‘Pie Time 2 – 4:30pm’ and apparently, we weren’t going to miss it. We treated ourselves to the best pie EVER – a slice of homemade bumble berry, a slice of strawberry rhubarb and a frozen blueberry pie for later. On our date, we saw a fantastic production, enjoyed the offerings of Rosebud including our wedding song and a birdhouse, plus had eaten several thousand calories. Completely satisfied in this myriad of ways, we headed home knowing we wanted to return and do it all over again.
Rosebud Theatre Tickets
For a spectacular day in the country and outstanding musical theatre, Bright Star is playing until May 25, 2019. Rosebud Theatre Tickets are $89 for adults, $67 for youth and it includes the buffet. Rosebud is located on Highway 840, approximately 100 km northeast of Calgary and 35 km southwest of Drumheller. Check their website here for tickets, show times, directions and upcoming shows.
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About guest contributor Nancy Cherniwchan
Nancy is always in pursuit of people, places and experiences that make her feel alive! She has spent time in a Bolivian jail, danced on Broadway and looks to connect with people in every corner of the world. You can find her on Instagram @cherniwchan.