Rosebud goes from the wooden stage to the virtual stage; May 22 next performance

Ryan Dahlman, Prairie Post
May 20, 2020

With the pandemic protocols in place and with the province trying to get healthy the Rosebud Homestage Tour is a way for the popular theatre company to reach its fans from all across southern Alberta.

The company has members and guests performing songs, theatre on Friday noons live on Facebook.

The livestream performances began April 3, with David Snider and Jeany Van Meltebeke performing from the 2015 The Wind in the Willows.

According to Morris Ertman, Artistic Director, Rosebud Theatre, it was difficult for the Theatre and the Rosebud School of Arts to not be able to perform but they had to make the best of it.

“There are so many talented artists connected to Rosebud Theatre. We employ guest artists from across Canada to supplement the talent in our staff performers and Rosebud School of the Arts students and graduates,” said Ertman. “So, there’s much talent to draw upon. And these talented folks want to share… it wasn’t too onerous to get it all set up, thanks to Lauren Hamm and Heather Little of our marketing staff.

“Rosebud Theatre chose to find a way to communicate and connect to the human heart, even though it had to be on a computer screen. Our Social Media person went to work inviting any artist who had an association with Rosebud Theatre to participate in a 1 hour live performance stream from their home. We batted titles around. We brainstormed ideas from complex interactive ideas to the one we chose, which is simple in its practicality, thereby making everything about the artist and the viewer with as little technical complexity as possible. And the Homestage Tour was born!”

Ertman noted the Board of Governors put together a COVID Committee consisting of equal parts management and board members. It turned out to be wise strategy, as it kept them in tune with both providing direction that takes into account the big picture as well as the unpredictability of the day to day.

“The cancellation of our spring show, Glorious!, was a huge financial and creative blow, but we had no choice. Necessary physical distancing protocols were mandated by the Provincial Health Authority, and we simply and willingly had to comply. And the last thing we would want is to put our patrons, staff, and performers at risk. But the loss of revenue severely affected our cash flow. We’re reliant on ticket sales for some 3/4 of our income,” explained Ertman.  “Thank God for provincial and federal government initiatives that helped sustain our staff to date. They have been redeployed to maintenance and other tasks that have often fallen to the wayside in the buzz of a typical Rosebud Theatre Season and teaching year. There’s a lot of good in that.”

He added the theatre and education are absolutely integrated because of our apprenticeship model of training. Students come in part because they have the “opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with professional actors on a professional stage when they have earned a role.”

In the meantime, they  have to deal with what is at hand, a need for finances.

“We’ve … put our focus on fundraising, with appropriate staff redeployed there as well. It’s a lot like what I imagine a natural disaster like a flood must be - everyone helping to pile sandbags higher, most everyone redeployed to survival tasks,” explained Ertman. “On Giving Tuesday this month, we raised $43,000. Separate from that, many patrons have also been generous in donating the cost of the ticket for cancelled shows - to date $27,000. Rosebud holds a particular pride of place in hearts of so many.

Besides the fundraising and the livestream performances, Rosebud will be doing something special at the end of May.

Eertman said that a few summers ago Eric Pauls and Six Two Six Productions created a documentary film company filmed a day in the life of Rosebud called “Rosebud, Alberta.” It has received critical acclaim on the Film Festival circuit, but its release has been stalled because of the cancellation of the rest of the festivals this year. So, in a bid to help Rosebud Theatre and School of he Arts, the filmmakers are releasing the film later this month, accompanied by a fund-raising campaign called #rosebudlives.

Ertman calls it “an opportunity to spread the word across Canada and further afield because of the way the film captures the serenity and the energy of our theatre-centric arts and hospitality village.”

The film premieres May 28 at 7 p.m. online at Also watch Facebook for future Homestage Tour performances.

Those wanting the traditional theatre back will have to wait until autumn when the production of the Silent Sky Opera House comes to fruition (Sept. 17 to Oct. 17).

“All in all, the picture in Rosebud is one of an organization and community coming together to overcome odds in a fragile time for live performance,“ said Ertman. “We’re looking at any and all options for the immediate future. It may be that we can offer some kind of school that is safe and secure for students, even if we can’t gather people to see shows. We hope we can be back onstage with an audience in fall or at Christmas, but that really is out of our hands.

But when this is all over, we plan to continue (as a school and theatre). So much learning takes place for these young performers in that situation. And we all know that the very best teacher is the audience itself. They teach what you can never put into words in a classroom or studio. So, our hope is to continue working hand in hand - professional artists and plays that matter on Rosebud Theatre’s stage with the appearance of astonishing new talent trained and then offered not just to our patrons, but to the culture at large.”

Friday, May 22 at 12 p.m., Rosebud Theatre features The Lazy Sundays, a musical duo from northern Alberta composed of RSA alumni, Chris and Esther Friesen. While in Rosebud, Chris was in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Unity (1918). Esther was in The Amish Project and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol. You may also remember them singing at the Mercantile during the buffet meal.

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Rosebud goes from the wooden stage to the virtual stage; May 22 next performance

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Ryan Dahlman, Prairie Post