Kohl’s Portrait is part of this year’s Ryga award gala

Armstrong actress Dorianne Kohl is reprising her acclaimed role as Hagar Shipley in Portrait of a Lady: A Tribute to Margaret Laurence as part of this year’s eighth annual George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature.

Armstrong actress Dorianne Kohl is reprising her acclaimed role as Hagar Shipley in Portrait of a Lady: A Tribute to Margaret Laurence as part of this year’s eighth annual George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature.

Based on Ryga’s seminal adaptation of Laurence’s classic novel The Stone Angel, with dramaturgy by Michael Cook, Kohl’s one-woman show has been performed all over Canada and will be a celebration of the late Ryga’s contribution to both the literary arts in Canada, as well as to social causes.

A shortlist of five authors are up for the award in Ryga’s name this year.

The son of poor Ukrainian immigrants, Ryga settled in Summerland, where he was known as a feisty playwright committed to social justice in works like The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1969).

The Ryga award celebrates his legacy by searching for an outstanding work of literary and social value by a B.C. writer.

The 2011 competition marks the expansion of the shortlist from three books to five due to a record number of submissions –– 57 in all.

“It’s a happy problem for us,” said Matt Kavanagh, chair of the department of English at Okanagan College, which sponsors the award along with the George Ryga Society. “There are a number of worthy titles, which prompted a lively debate at our shortlisting meeting. The finalists range from a harrowing examination of human trafficking in Canada to a close study of B.C.’s iconic Cowichan sweater, which reveals how Aboriginal women have woven themselves into the fabric of our nation.”

The shortlist is traditionally announced on July 27 –– which was Ryga’s birthday.

This year’s finalists are Gabor Gasztonyi’s A Room in the City (Anvil Press); Sylvia Olsen’s Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater (Sono Nis Press); Benjamin Perrin’s Invisible Chains (Penguin); John Vaillant’s The Tiger (Knopf Canada) and  Richard Wagamese’s One Story, One Song (Douglas & McIntyre).

Andrew Steeves of Gaspereau Press (publisher of Johanna Skibsrud’s Giller Prize-winning novel The Sentimentalists) is judging this year’s semi-finalists.

The winner of the 2011 Ryga Award will be announced at a gala presentation Oct. 1 at the Centre Stage Theatre in Summerland, which will showcase Kohl’s Portrait of a Lady.

Tickets for the gala are $20 and available at Martin’s Flowers in Summerland (250-494-5432), The Dragon’s Den in Penticton (250-492-3011), the Okanagan College Bookstore (250-862-5622) or at the door.

The Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature is made possible by support from BC Bookworld, CBC Radio One (Kelowna) and Okanagan College.