EDMONTON, July 2, 2013 /CNW/ – The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Minister for Status of Women and Member of Parliament (Edmonton-Spruce Grove), on behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, today announced an investment in the Varscona Theatre Alliance Society to support the construction of a new 11,500-square-foot theatre facility in Edmonton’s historic Old Strathcona district.
“Our Government is proud to support Edmonton’s new Varscona Theatre. Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that arts and heritage organizations have access to state-of-the-art facilities and improved infrastructure, so they can continue to provide great artistic performances for tourists and visitors,” said Minister Ambrose. “We are pleased to partner with the Province of Alberta and the City of Edmonton to help build and revitalize Edmonton’s historic Old Strathcona district.”
This funding will allow the Varscona Theatre to demolish its existing 55-year old theatre and construct, on the existing site, a new facility that will include a 250-seat theatre, lobby, rehearsal space, green room, box office, and administrative offices. Once completed, the Varscona Theatre will complement an existing group of theatres including the TransAlta Arts Barns, Catalyst Theatre, and Walterdale Playhouse.
In addition, the Varscona Theatre will purchase new lighting, sound, and other technical equipment for the new theatre space. These technical upgrades will improve the facility’s overall efficiency and enable the Society to present more technically sophisticated shows.
“This new theatre will provide a rejuvenated cultural hub for Edmontonians and strengthen the Old Strathcona district’s live theatre scene,” said Minister Moore. “I am thrilled to see that local arts and culture groups will have a new home in which to rehearse, perform, learn and grow, and that audiences, in turn, will be rewarded with outstanding theatrical performances.”
“The Varscona Theatre has been synonymous with live theatre in Alberta for nearly 73 years. Offering more than 350 performances a year, it is a model of artistic partnership that maximizes the talents of five theatrical companies in a common space,” said the Honourable Heather Klimchuk, Alberta Minister of Culture. “The Government of Alberta is proud to join the Varscona Theatre Alliance, the City of Edmonton, and Government of Canada in this project that will help the Alliance better accommodate its growth in patrons and its creative strength in connecting Albertans to the excitement and passion of the performing arts.”
“The City of Edmonton is immensely proud of the dynamic arts and culture we have in this city. We are thrilled to be a part of building the new Varscona Theatre, which is one of the cornerstones of live theatre in Old Strathcona. The new facility will be a great addition to the community and a place for Edmontonians to enjoy,” said Stephen Mandel, Mayor of Edmonton.
“We are thrilled that the Government of Canada has agreed to be a part of this exciting venture. This funding is essential for us to move forward and refurbish this building which is now at the end of its life cycle,” said John Hudson, C.E.O of the Varscona Theatre. “It will help to ensure the Varscona Theatre continues to have a major impact on our community, the city, and the province. We are truly grateful to the federal government and Minister Ambrose for their vision, commitment, and support.”
The building that now houses the Varscona Theatre was built in 1956 by the City of Edmonton. It was originally a fire station until 1982, when the City repurposed the building and converted it to a 176-seat theatre. Since 1994, it has been operated by the Varscona Theatre Alliance Society and is home to award-winning resident theatre companies, including Shadow Theatre, Teatro la Quindicina, Die-Nasty, and Oh Susanna.
The Government of Canada has provided funding of $1,900,000 through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. This program seeks to improve physical conditions for artistic creativity and arts presentation or exhibition. It is also designed to increase access for Canadians to performing, visual, and media arts, and to museum collections and heritage displays.