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Theatre Preview: Burning Sage lights up the summer

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With Calgary's professional theatre companies on summer hiatus comes the retreat from the reliable to fulfill the thespian's desire for new theatre experiences. Now is the perfect time to delight in the offerings of some of Calgary's emerging artists.

The inaugural IGNITE Emerging Arts Theatre Festival presented by Sage Theatre provides a great opportunity for Calgary theatre junkies to get their fix in a new way. Part learning experience part new talent showcase, IGNITE matches emerging Calgary artists with professional mentors to create a five-play, one-weekend showcase. Though decidedly smaller than its model--Edmon-ton's 10 year-old Nextfest--IGNITE Director Adrienne Smook says the festival has its own unique spin.

"It's not their job to make sure the show is successful," says Smook of the mentors' role in five IGNITE productions. "They're not there to direct it. We said it would be good to come to one or two rehearsals per week and the mentors will be on call for anyone involved in the process. As producers and directors of the festival we've let those relationships develop organically."

Smook hopes this hands-off approach will allow mentors to develop lasting relationships with emerging actors, directors, designers, writers and stage managers while encouraging new talent and fostering a sense of belonging within the Calgary theatre community.

Despite the festival's comparatively small size--Nextfest showcases 400 artists over 15 venues--Smook says its five varied plays written by local playwrights will have wide audience appeal.

"They's quite a wide variety of characters talked about, from ravers throwing a party in their basement [Sparkle Bunny: The Last Raver] to two commuters on a train [All for Profit]," explains Smook.

If the plays share a common thread, it's their relatively inexperienced casts, directors and playwrights. This is a forum where risks are not only allowed, but encouraged.

"This is such an exciting time in their careers," says Smook. "It's an exciting time to see these artists when they're just starting out."

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