Country musical sheds new light on abuse

By Nicole Kobie

What do three University of Calgary alumni and a farmer’s abused wife have in common? Obstacles.

The story of Marg Szkaluba’s change from a simple, abused farm wife to a country and western singing superstar is chronicled in the musical of the same name.

You may have never heard of Marg Szkaluba. That’s because she’s fictional. A figment of former U of C professor Ron Chamber’s imagination, she will be brought to life through the efforts of director and past Masters of Directing student Christopher Cinnamon. Joining them is U of C student-turned-actress Elizabeth Stepkowski.

"What drew me into the story is it’s about discovering inner strengths and overcoming outside obstacles," Cinnamon begins. "It’s about other people that try to put out your fire."

In the musical, Marg shows immense inner strength to overcome her situation. Those involved in its production, however, had a whole different slew of obstacles to dodge.

"We’ve had to overcome a lot to keep [the play] flying," explains

Cinnamon. "As much as we all love the industry, it is difficult to find work."

For example, while in production, Cinnamon took a job at the University of Lethbridge. He’s been commuting back and forth ever since. While the expense in time and gas money may have been high, making Marg Szkaluba was important to him. When he first read the piece, he was moved by it; the strength it offered encouraged him.

"Maybe I was needing it at the time," he reflects. "To be able to listen to one woman speak for two hours… there must be something to the story."

With 10 full songs, the two-hour piece needed a talented musician to make it work. This person was found in local guitar legend Tim Williams. The songs, which range in style from humorous ’50s tunes to blues and gospel, display Williams’ musical range and exceptional talents.

"He has given the play its musical voice," describes Cinnamon.

Marg Szkaluba gets its look and feel from another place, though. The performances run April 12 to 21 at the BeatNiq Jazz and Social Club, which may seem a strange location for a theatre production, but Cinnamon insists it’s perfect.

"That’s where [the story] is supposed to take place," says Cinnamon. "It offers more authenticity."

Hopefully, audiences will appreciate such efforts. They did at its last production at Edmonton’s 1999 Fringe Festival. Nearly every performance garnered an enthusiastic standing ovation.

However, Cinnamon is looking for more than just applause and ovations. He hopes his social commentary will reach those people who would most benefit from it: those in abusive relationships.

"What a great gift to be able to give to somebody," he says. "[To] make a difference in people’s lives."

For tickets and information call 703-7222.

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