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Opposites combine to host arts gala

Ted Dykstra and Kelly Aisenstat join forces to deliver radio-themed show

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 06:00 am

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  • POPULAR HOST – Ted Dykstra was raised in St. Albert and now calls Toronto home.
    POPULAR HOST – Ted Dykstra was raised in St. Albert and now calls Toronto home.
    Supplied photo
  • EQUALLY POPULAR – Kelly Aisenstat, a resident St. Albert actor, will co-host the gala.
    EQUALLY POPULAR – Kelly Aisenstat, a resident St. Albert actor, will co-host the gala.

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Two St. Albert funny men are ramping up the humour to host the fourth annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Awards.

Ted Dykstra, who was raised in St. Albert and now calls Toronto home, and Kelly Aisenstat, a resident St. Albert actor, are the popular choices to host this event at the Arden Theatre on Friday, March 14.

Dykstra, an acclaimed actor, pianist and director, last performed at the Citadel Theatre in a good-bye tour of the internationally renowned 2 Pianos 4 Hands.

Instead, in the past four years, Aisenstat has thrown himself into light amateur theatre performing a variety of roles through StArts Fest and STAGE.

However St. Albert Theatre Troupe has given him the opportunity to hone his chops in dinner theatre productions such as Rumors, Wife Begins at 40 and Opening Night.

Although the two comedic actors have very diverse personalities and backgrounds, both have a natural gift for spontaneous wit and comedy, and are fairly seasoned at entertaining audiences.

Dykstra, who displays a roguish charisma, is the perfect foil to play off Aisenstat’s more self-deprecating, straitlaced charm.

Playwright Tracey Aisenstat created the award ceremony’s themed retro radio show, and cast Dykstra as the straight man who sets up the jokes. Instead her husband is the “bumbling stooge” who gets hit with punch lines.

Aisenstat, a legal counsel for Alberta Health by day, has found theatre a fulfilling artistic outlet.

“It’s a creative expression. I enjoy attacking the script and unlocking the text and diving into it,” says Aisenstat.

His theatre background was nurtured at University of British Columbia where he earned a fine arts degree. Drifting around, Aisenstat tried to mount his works, but describes it as “a bit of a high-wire act.”

At the time, he and Tracy were living in Calgary. Meeting another couple with a like-minded artistic bent, they talked about buying a shack and turning it into a theatre to mount their shows.

One of their friends decided to write the LSAT exams for law school and Aisenstat pondered the idea.

“Law was more difficult, but more interesting. And I got really lucky. The person running the administration was looking for a non-typical applicant.”

After three years of law school, he articled at Edmonton’s courts and moved to St. Albert in June, 2000.

Ted Dykstra was a born showman from the time he was kid. Acting popped onto his radar and he remembers one of his earliest roles as the Second Bird in Once Upon a Clothesline.

However, his break out into stardom occurred in Grade 8 at Sir George Simpson Junior High playing The Hobbit. At 15, he auditioned for a Frank Moher piece and soon was landing numerous teen roles for locally produced film and television projects.

Dykstra had a yen to study the classics and headed out to Montreal’s National Theatre School. After three years of classical training, he decided his substandard French was a deterrent and returned to Toronto where he landed a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He was accepted at Stratford for a year and over the next 20 years landed parts at the Shaw Festival, Centaur Theatre, Canadian Stage, Theatre Passe-Muraille and Neptune Theatre.

He received standing ovations with his sizzling portrayal of Cale, the Jerry Lee Lewis inspired character of Fire, a role that won him his first Dora Mavor Award.

In the late 1990s Dykstra became a founder of the prominent Soulpepper Theatre, a company formed by Stratford actors who wanted to continue playing the classics but were finding it difficult to accept the eight-month contractual obligations.

These days, Dykstra takes an average of one acting gig a year and splits the rest of the time between acting and directing.

Last October when Dykstra rolled into Edmonton to perform 2 Pianos 4 Hands with long-time collaborator Richard Greenblatt, he was asked if he ever felt overwhelmed.

“Nah. It’s not really work. It’s fun,” Dykstra replied with a grin.

Tracy Aisenstat is confident that Dykstra and her husband will ping-pong the jokes and strike a chord with the audience.

“I don’t feel I need to direct with Kelly and Ted. I’m more like a babysitter or a conductor,” she laughed

Performing a radio play is an exciting new concept for Kelly Aisenstat.

“It’s theatre of the mind. You get to fill in the blanks, particularly with the style of the ’40s. It has an edge that is different from today. It’s a faster pace. It’s rapid fire. The writing is clever and delivered in a staccato style. Some of the poetic stuff breezes right by, but you want to hear it again.”

Tickets for the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Awards are $35. They are available at the Arden Theatre box office at 780-459-1542 or online at


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