Author and playwright George Ryga lived in Summerland from 1962 until his death in 1987. His artistic legacy is honoured at the annual Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)

Ryga Arts Festival to proceed with online presence

Organizers of Summerland-based festival examining technologies to present readings and concerts

Organizers of the Ryga Arts Festival are planning to keep the Summerland-based arts festival going this summer, but the event in late August will likely have an online presence.

The festival is held each year in honour of Summerland author and playwright George Ryga.

Ryga lived in the community from 1962 until his death in 1987. His most famous work is his 1967 play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which has been performed and studied internationally.

Heather Davies, artistic director of the festival, said organizers have been looking for ways to present the arts and participating artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The pandemic has resulted in directives restricting public events to no more than 50 people and requiring two metres between people. Festivals and other events have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19.

Davies said the theatre festival, scheduled for Aug. 14 to 23, will be able to offer at least some of its events and activities.

“We have the capacity to be nimble and to take some of our activities online,” she said.

Writers and poets can give readings online, while musicians are able to perform using online technology.

The theatrical element is expected to change, but Davies is looking to adapt theatre to work within the parameters of the COVID-19 directives.

She said she has held play readings through the Zoom video conferencing platform.

“It is extraordinary how much aliveness can be presented through that venue,” she said.

She added that the festival organizers are continuing to explore various options as technology improves.

Davies said the online festival fits with the spirit of Ryga.

“George Ryga was an innovator in terms of form and content,” Davies said. “I think he would be in the middle of this situation, even more determined to create community.”

Peter Hay, a member of the Ryga Arts Festival board of directors, is looking forward to presenting the festival in a different format this year.

“In the arts, we are always trying to find new ways,” he said.

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