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George Ryga: The Other Plays

George Ryga: The Other Plays
Your Price: $29.95 CDN
Author: George Ryga
Edited by: James Hoffman
Publisher: Talonbooks
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 409
Pub. Date: 2004
ISBN-10: 0889225001
ISBN-13: 9780889225008

About the Plays:

George Ryga: The Other Plays is a collection of sixteen plays compiled by his biographer James Hoffman.

George Ryga is considered a father of Canadian literature, theatre, and social consciousness. Best known for The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, the first piece of professional Canadian theatre to be produced from coast to coast as well as the first play staged at Ottawa's National Arts Theatre in 1969. The published version of his Vancouver Playhouse hit play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is widely available as a best-seller. Yet the work of one of Canada's best known playwrights, canonized by critics, translated into 10 languages, and studied by students world-wide, remains largely absent from the Canadian stage: few prophets have been denied as this country has denied George Ryga.

George Ryga: The Other Plays, then, is a challenge, even a provocation, to examine George Ryga in light of the other plays that constitute his substantial dramatic oeuvre. How was it that one of Canada's pioneering playwrights became an outsider to the very theatre he had been instrumental in creating?

As a self-proclaimed figure of exile, as an "artist in resistance," George Ryga criticized issues of Canadian culture in numerous instances – particularly its colonized nature, even turning on the very theatre that had earlier nourished him. Employing disruptive elements such as flashbacks / forwards, poetic speeches, songs, sound motifs and changes of setting and weather, George Ryga gives his plays a sense of restless movement, even a loss of control. His characters may be physically and spiritually trapped by their colonial uncertainties, but they have great capacity to envision a different tomorrow. It was a vision of tomorrow that, with the sole exception of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, the theatre of Ryga's day had no wish to share.

The collection George Ryga: The Other Plays includes:
Indian (1964) A searing accusation of racist attitudes and practise against Aboriginal people. (Cast: 3 men)
Nothing but a Man (1967) is a stage adaptation of his teleplay Man Alive, originally written in 1965 as a television script.
Just an Ordinary Person (1968) This play, one of Ryga's shortest, is also his most soul-searching. (Cast: 2 men)
Grass and Wild Strawberries (1968) A genuine 'happening' that boldly embraced the zeitgeist of Vancouver's volatile street scene and B.C.'s back-to-the-land hippie movement.
Compressions (1969) A sustained, passionate debate about broad societal questions then current at the height of the counterculture revolution (the famous Woodstock festival took place that August). (Cast: 2 women, 3 men)
Captives of the Faceless Drummer (1971) A dialectic of urban violence and its logical extension into the future. Closely parallels the real-life drama of the FLQ crisis in Quebec in 1970, dramatizing conflicting ideologies. Frightening, gentle and passionate. (Cast: 2 women, 5 men)
Sunrise on Sarah (1972) addresses, in a psychological context, the same metathematic of rootlessness and exile from an effectively constructed self that haunts all of Ryga's work.
A Portrait of Angelica (1973) A "ballad play" set in a small Mexican town and examining the interaction of locals with Canadian tourists. A portrait of a culture which, unlike our own, has endured "a thousand hurricanes."
Ploughmen of the Glacier (1976) Conversations between an aged prospector and a retired newspaperman bring about an examination of the myth of men who made the West. (Cast: 3 men)
Seven Hours to Sundown (1976) A play about the nature of power in a small communities – designed to be adapted for specific audiences. (Cast: 2 women, 4 men)
Jeremiah's Place (1978) A play for young audiences. Has a familiar Ryga theme: the anguish over the loss of a homestead, especially as family relationships are seriously disrupted and questions are raised about the best use of the land. (Cast: 2 women, 3 men)
Laddie Boy (1978) is a short sketch of what Ryga called "failed human beings," the inevitable consequence of living in a "decaying social order." (Cast: 1 woman, 2 men)
Promethus Bound (1978) A modernized version of the Aeschylus myth portrays the individual warring with what he sees as evil in society. (Cast: 3 women, 4 men)
A Letter to My Son (1981) An old Ukrainian-Canadian farmer confronts modern bureaucracy in the person of a young social worker, between whose visits he composes a letter to his son, a school teacher alienated from his "peasant" father. (Cast: 2 women, 3 men) A Finalist for the 1984 Governor General's Award for Drama.
One More Road (1985) is a folksy indictment of politics and the foibles of humanity. (Cast: 1 man)
Paracelsus (1986) The epic tale of the Swiss medic and alchemist who, during the Renaissance, attacked the quackery and greed of an unenlightened medical establishment. A sub-plot examines 20th century medicine and its ethical dilemmas. (Cast: 1 woman, 3 men)

What people say:

"Hoffman provides an effective and multifaceted description for the student seeking a quick understanding of Ryga's stature as a playwright." — Canadian Literature

"More than any other writer, George Ryga was responsible for first bringing the contemporary age to the Canadian stage." — John Juliani, actor and director

"George Ryga had taken the human experience, which in this case is Canadian only by accident of destiny, distilled it through his fine sense of compassion and given it to us ... as an act of communion in which our own participation is inescapable." — CBC

About the Playwright:

George Ryga (1932-1987) was one of Canada's most important playwrights, with a broad international reputation. Largely self-taught, he showed early promise when he won a writing scholarship to the Banff School of the Arts. He published his first book of poems in his late teens and earned a living first with hard labour and later in radio broadcasting. In 1967, Ryga soared to national fame with The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which has since evolved into a modern classic. "More than any other writer," said theatre director John Juliani, "George Ryga was responsible for first bringing the contemporary age to the Canadian stage." He will always be remembered and cherished as one of Canada's most prolific and powerful writers.

About the Editor:

James Hoffman is Professor Emeritus of Theatre at Thompson Rivers University, located in Kamloops, BC. He is the biographer of George Ryga and perhaps the foremost authority on the history and culture of British Columbia theatre.

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