Sub sub series Fonds 424-3-4-29 - Theatresports

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Fonds 424-3-4-29

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  • 1985 (Creation)
    Fringe Theatre Adventures

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Text: 0.3 m.

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(1978 -)

Administrative history

Fringe Theatre Adventures began in 1978 as Chinook Touring Theatre, a theatre for young audiences (TYA). Founded in Fort St. John, British Columbia, by Brian Paisley and Ti Hallas, its mission was to "open an archway to accessible theatre adventures by and for the community." Paisley and Hallas moved the company to Edmonton in 1980, scheduling tours all over Alberta from offices in the basement of the Princess Theatre on Whyte Ave., before moving into the renovated Fire Hall No. 6 on 83 Ave in 1983. The 83 Ave. site contained offices and a 175-seat theatre for in-house productions and for rental to other artists, as well as for use by the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival which Chinook had initiated the previous summer. The name changed to Chinook Theatre Society in 1986 and then again, to Fringe Theatre Adventures in 1995, marking the ascendency of the what had by then become the company's better known and more dynamic contribution to Edmonton local theatre. In 1995, the company also moved its operations into the old bus barns in Old Strathcona, renaming the complex the Strathcona Arts Barns, and embarking on a long-term plan to create a year-round theatre and cultural centre, complete with a permanent theatre to replace the temporary risers and facilities used for the Fringe. The Arts Barns were leased from the City of Edmonton by Fringe Theatre Adventures for twenty years. The move was seen as necessary not only to create a larger theatre, but also to prevent commercial redevelopment plans for the bus barns, which were central to the continued healthy operations of the Fringe Festival. Over the years Chinook's TYA program produced a combination of original works such as Paisley's Tikta'Liktak, James DeFelice's Merchants of Dazu and Ballad of the Bird Prince and Clem Martini's Swimmers and Gambetta Rise, and adaptations such as Tartuffe and The Odyssey, along with productions of playwrights such as Dennis Foon. The touring program was popular in smaller centres outside Edmonton, but attempts to secure a local audience and identity were less successful. A "Youth and Adult Audiences" season was launched in 1985-86, with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Sharon Pollock's The Komagata Maru Incident. However, a second such season for 1986-87 was cancelled because of tight budgets overall. At other times, Chinook would bring its touring show into its home theatre, but lack of a regular season or predictable schedule seemed to forestall audience loyalty, despite quality productions. If the TYA program did not establish a strong local presence, the Fringe Festival did. The Fringe was established in 1982 on a $50,000 grant from SummerFest, to replace the cancelled Northern Light Theatre Shakespeare in the Park season. Paisley had been to the Edinburgh Fringe the year before, and recognized the potential of many of the empty buildings in the Old Strathcona district as potential theatre venues. The district was just at the start of a revitalization project, of which the Fringe Festival became a prominent component. Such a summer festival would also help secure year-round work for the Chinook staff. The premise for the Fringe was simple enough. Chinook would set up theatre spaces, equipped with lights and sound, and with a technician. Artists would book performance space from Chinook, and perform whatever they wanted, taking whatever gate they could get from whatever audience they could attract. There would be no pre-selection or refereeing by an overseeing artistic director, just nine days of artists free to find their audiences. The original Fringe had five venues, but as the Festival grew, it peaked at fourteen venues by 1993 and 1994, before "shrinking" to thirteen. Total attendance figures passed the half-million marks by the early '90s, though much of that was for the ambience and the street festival and outdoor shows that grew up alongside the indoor venues, rather than for the theatre offerings themselves. The 1985 Fringe was particularly noteworthy in the evolution of the Festival, as that was the year it became possible to talk of "Fringe hits," shows that could make a reasonable return for the artists, and attract enough audience to be restaged after the Festival itself was over. In that year, for example, Life After Hockey, by Ken Brown, went on to a national tour. Although local performers have always been a feature of the Festival, performers also began to come from all over the country, and from the U.S. and abroad, raising audience expectations and the overall quality of stagecraft. However, there seemed to be a parallel diminishing of experimentation and innovation, as artists searched for the money-making production. Eventually the Festival became a popular model and anchor for a string of similar events across the country, and spawned imitators in the U.S. However, over time the anomalous, at times schizophrenic division of labour between the TYA and Fringe operations strained the administrative and operation energies of the company, especially when the Fringe became more than a few months of summer fill-in work for the staff. Ironically, perhaps, "Chinook" theatre was overshadowed by its "marginal" offspring, and the parent company was renamed for its more famous and demanding child. Paisley remained as TYA Artistic Director until June 1987, and as Fringe Producer until 1989. He was succeeded as TYA Artistic Director in 1988 by Dorothy Ann Haug, who remained in that position for six years. Judy Lawrence, originally hired as Assistant Fringe producer in 1988, became Festival Director in 1990, and the overall Executive Director in 1995. David Cheoros became Festival Director in 1997. Lawrence resigned in January 1998, and was succeeded by Darryl Lindenbach. When Chinook / Fringe Theatre Adventures took up permanent residence in the Arts Barns, it sublet the 83 Ave. space over to a consortium of eight independent companies, many with Fringe histories. The plan was to buy time for the consortium to prove itself, and to help establish the viability of two professional theatre venues in the district. The objective was to try to keep the 83 Ave. space active as a theatre, once a permanent theatre was developed in the Arts barns, and to prevent it from being redeveloped for some other enterprise. After a shaky start, the consortium stabilized around Shadow Theatre and Teatro Quindicina, and the Die-Nasty improv soaps, producing out of what was renamed the "New Varscona" theatre. The future of the New Varscona remains in some doubt at the time of this writing, as the space is on a month-to-month lease and redevelopers from time to time make inquiries to the City about the property. To date, strong lobbying of City Council by theatre and business interests in the district, and by the Old Strathcona Foundation, has helped keep the site a theatre.

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Biographical history

Theatre Network was founded in 1975 by a group including a director, Mark Manson, and six actors: Tanya Ryga, Dennis Robinson, Shay Garner, Jeurgen Beerwald, Jonathan Barker and Gerry Zelinski. All had trained at the University of Alberta Drama Department. The Theatre was not initially an Edmonton company. Rather, the original objective was to produce plays "about Alberta for Albertans", with an overall two-part mandate: to foster the development of original regional theatre, and to promote the arts in Ablerta through the medium of theatre. Unofficially, the aim was to help establish a cultrual network across the province through theatre touring. To achieve these ends the group began developing plays on-site through collective creation, adapting techniques and objectives made popular by Theatre Passe Muraille, under the direction of Paul Thompson. Early productions included Two Miles Off (1975), The Homesteaders (1976), Hard Hats and Stolen Hearts (1977), Kicker (1978) and A Trip to the Farm (later Sarah and Gabriel (1978/79). In addition to the collectives, Theatre Network also produced new works by playwrights such as George Ryga (Seven Hours to Sundown, 1976) and Sharaon Pollock (Tracings, 1977). In 1977-78, Theatre Network toured Hard Hats and Stolen Hearts to eastern Canada. The tour also included a run at Richard Schechner's off-Broadway venue, the Performance Garage, in November 1978u, making Theayre Network the first "Edmonton" professional theatre to have a play produced in New York. Manson resigned as artistic director in 1980, and the theatre re-organized as an Edmonton community-based theatre with its own permanent space, a converted Jehobah's Witness meeting hall at 11847 - 77 Street. The space, rented from the City, provided a small 150 seat theatre. The first "Edmonton" season was directed by Andras Tahn, who served as interim director while on leave from his position as artistic director of Saskatoon's 25th Street Theatre. Theatre Network appointed Stephen Heatley as artistic director (1981). Under Heatley, a graduate of the University of Alberta's Master of Fine Arts in Directing program, the theatre reinterpreted its mandate to feature new work by prairie playwrights in general, though still with a preference for Alberta. Among the playwrights produced were Ken Brown, Kelly Rebar, Robert Clinton, Frank Moher, Lyle Victor Albert, Michael McKinlay, Ian Ferguson and Greg Nelson. Heatley also introduced Dark Mondays, which provided a space for independent artists to stage their works, and Theatresports, an improvisational theatre that eventually evolved into Rapid Fire Theatresports. In 1989, Theatre Network moved to the old Roxy Theatre building on 124th Street and 107 Avenue. The move provided a 300-seat venue as the theatre underwent another transformation, under the slogan "Network for the Nineties." The first production in the Roxy was a co-production with Small Change Theatre: One Beautiful Evening (or Two), November 28, 1989. In its new home, Theatre Network launched the Network Newrites repertory festival for new plays, and developed a project called Canadian Dell Arte, whose play Once Upon a Landfill (1993) essentially concluded Heatley's connection with the company. The move, coupled with a recession and a decline in audience provided unexpected larger expenses as well as a larger venue, resulting in strained budgets and realtionships. In 1992, Heatley resigned when the Board cancelled a scheduled production of Conni Massing's The Aberhart Summer, after contracts had already been signed with the cast. Heatley's successor, Ben Henderson almost became the last to occupy the post of artistic directror. Hired in 1993, Henderson inherited a large debt that only increased. By the end of the 1994 season, the debt had grown to nearly $250,000. Henderson, general manager David Hennessey and a team of volunteers fund-raised the theatre back into solvency, and at the same time renovated and redecorated the building rom floor to ceiling. Henderson's five years at Theatre Network continued the tradition of new works, but also added in productions that originated elsewhere, such as Ronnie Burkett's Tinka's New Dress, in the 1997-98 season. In 1996 Theatre Network initiated the Festival of the Next Generatin, under Bradley moss. In 1997, John Cooper was hired as co-artistic director. Cooper had been artistic director of Phoeniz Theatre when it folded. At the same time, Theatre Network expanded its range of show to include the kind of programming Phoenix had carried on.

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Sub-sub series consists of production records of the Fringe Theatre Adventures production of Theatresports..

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  • English

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Created by RFROGNER 4-6-2011. Updated by MACS 5-13-2011.

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