When Theatre Network first gained access in September 2021 , “ It was still a construction site , habitable , but still under construction in terms of finishes ,” says Peters , adding that although supply chain issues , including a shortage of chips for audio and lighting gear , have delayed the installation of some equipment , the Roxy is now up and running .
Before the fire , the historic venue changed significantly over time . Designed by Edmonton architect William Blakey , it originally opened in 1938 as a neighbourhood movie house before being purchased by Odeon Suburban Theatres in 1941 and then renovated in 1955 . Later , the Roxy was donated to Theatre Network by Nancy Power and it was repurposed as a live performance venue in 1989 . “ We do avant-garde , experimental work , social commentary , Indigenous theatre , the more edgy productions that others don ’ t ,” Peters notes .
As Jared Tabler , board president of Theatre Network , put it in an April 2022 interview with The Edmonton Journal : “ The new Roxy is designed to fuel curiosity and ignite self-discovery and reflection . We have created a place where diversity , inclusion , and exploration are celebrated as fundamental values .”
Although Theatre Network ’ s Artistic / Executive Director , Bradley Moss , is thrilled by the new facility , he remembers the old facility fondly , recalling the amount of work that went into the space over his tenure – including a new roof and electrical systems – and the sound of the venue itself . “ Especially for bands , the sound quality was amazing . Now , we have a brand-new facility , and that ’ s awesome , but I loved the old building .”
As early as 2003 , plans were in the works to rebuild the space . “ Then , we were very close to constructing a building ,” Moss says . “ We did 10 or 12 designs and visited all kinds of theatres around the country .” Ultimately , however , a decision was made to purchase a property next door , but rising construction costs prompted them to hold off . That process heavily informed the construction of the new Roxy . “ I ’ ve been with the company since 1999 / 2000 , but I started with a multidisciplinary emerging artist festival called Nextfest in 1996 . That was what this [ new ] venue was built for ,” Moss continues . “ We knew we wanted two venues : a shop and a rehearsal hall . It was like , ‘ What do we need to do to have a space to rehearse , create , market , and perform a show or a concept ?’” Essentially , he adds , what they were trying to determine was what was necessary to run an “ entertainment factory ” – a one-stop-shop for mounting decidedly experimental performances . “ Our bucket isn ’ t American musicals and Broadway . It ’ s new , Canadian , risky [ productions ],” Moss notes . Again , the kind of programming that supports emerging artists and amplifies the voices of those who are unlikely to be heard in the mainstream .
As an example , Peters cites the first show mounted in the Nancy Power Theatre – a Shakespeare adaptation entitled , As You Like It : A Radical Retelling , created by Cliff Cardinal ( originally mounted by Crow Theatre in Toronto ). “ From that , we go right into Nextfest , so we ’ re really going to shake this building out in June .”
Over time , the venue has been a focal point for performances and artists whose careers were helped along by the venue ’ s support — among them , iconic singer-songwriter k . d . lang and playwright Brad Fraser . As another example , Moss cites a 10-minute piece that played during Nextfest by Sheldon Elter called Métis Mutt , a show that centres squarely on the racism the actor , writer , stand-up comic , musician , and director experienced over time . “ That played again next year at Nextfest , then at the Fringe , then came back to the Roxy , and later toured across the country in community centres and theatres .”
And now , in terms of the amount of space they have and the audio , lighting , and video technology at their disposal , “ We can support artists in ways we never could before .”
Like Moss , Peters has had lengthy experience at the Roxy . “ I started around 2005 as a contract production manager and designer , then came on board full-time as PM in 2007-2008 .” Over time , Peters , Moss , and Christie Lights Account Manager Gary Meiklejohn have developed a relationship that helped define their needs after the fire and , ultimately , following the completion of the new building .
Within a month of the fire , Peters and Meiklejohn discussed their needs moving forward in terms of control , dimming , and fixtures . “ My role was support – keeping them apprised of what ’ s coming up , what ’ s new … what ’ s current and compatible from a control standpoint ,” Meiklejohn says . “ But , other than a few specific things I pointed to , they were on top of what they wanted and the quantities .”
“ Gary brought a whole bunch of different moving lights [ to us ] several summers ago ,” Peters adds . “ One summer , I had the Gateway full of different movers he ’ d collected for me , including
THE NANCY POWER THEATRE
some new ETC products . We were able to turn them all on and see them , and hear them ,” he adds , citing that how silent the fixtures are was a major consideration . “ That cemented my decision on the movers .”
“ The reason I picked Elation , specifically the Fuze Profiles and Washes , movers was because they were the quietest fixtures ,” Peters says . “ I also do rock and roll as a musician and a technician . Most movers are noisy . It doesn ’ t matter in rock and roll , but it sure matters in theatre , and so there were just so many that were off the list because of the noise . Even those with a studio or quiet mode were still too loud . Just because of the type of theatre that we do , there are a lot of quiet moments . We ’ ve got six of the washes on stage and five of the profiles to move around and do whatever .”
In choosing fixtures , it was a balance between the latest and greatest , and keeping in mind that new products would come out before they occupied the new theatre , he continues : “ I did choose some new ETC cyc lights . They were in the manufacturing stage when I got them , and I was like , ‘ I definitely want these .’ The demo I had was astounding . They were brighter and wider than the other fixtures I had . When we started the demo process , the Lustre 3s weren ’ t even on the map yet , but down the road , a couple of years later , they were available .”
Great care was also taken with the behindthe-scenes systems . “ Part of the challenge was the fact that , because the venue is so multipurpose , a lot has to be packed into each room ,” Moss says . An example is their computer-controlled climate / air handling infrastructure , for which , again , noise was an important consideration .
Flexibility was also a primary concern . “ It was number one ,” Peters explains . “ Everything had to be functional but flexible . We had to be able to move things around the building – and use the soft goods in both spaces . So , that ’ s why the grids of both spaces are the same height and things like that .”
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