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Political Playwright, The

Country Available: Canada, USA

"Recommended" -Video Librarian

Political, intellectual and passionate, George Ryga was a playwright who had a sense of social justice and an even keener sense of social injustice. He wrote plays with the intent to make a difference: not just to move and educate people, but to make people take direct action. Thus his play, "The Ecstasy of Rita Joe" written with grit and unbending purpose, brought Ryga into the international spotlight. At home, he made a deep mark on the psyche of all who watched the plight of Rita Joe, as she depicted the disadvantaged, the distained, the Indian in Canada.

In taking such daring risks with his work, Ryga established not only his own critical and public success, but he also blazed a trail in the Canadian theatre scene. "The Ecstasy of Rita Joe" was first staged in Canada's centennial year. It remains the top grossing play ever at the Vancouver Playhouse and was chosen as the first production at Canada's National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1969. Political plays, therefore became synonymous with George Ryga and established a position in Canada's theatre community.

"The Political Playwright" honors George Ryga's life and works by telling his story through interviews with family, friends and theatre critics, along with archival photos and clips from his plays. We learn about his childhood in an isolated Alberta farming community, the trunks of books shipped to him from libraries in Edmonton, through to his scholarship at the Banff School of the Fine Arts as well as his dismissals, his family life, and his final stands for justice. Two decades after his death, George Ryga remains a charismatic and uncompromising icon in Canadian theatre today, alerting us to the dangers of both artistic risk and artistic complacency.

View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2005 Length: 48 minutes Library Audience:
  • Adult - Language Arts
  • School Audience:
  • Grades 10 - 12
  • Post-Secondary Education
  • Subjects:
  • Arts, Music, Dance: Theatre
  • Canadian History
  • Language Arts
  • Biography
  • Formats Available:
  • VHS Tape
  • DVD