Alberta Arts Days: Citadel Open House and Randall Stout

After a visit to the City Centre Market (only 2 more opportunities left!), I packed up a lunch and met Mack at Churchill Square. Our day of arts activities would start at the nearby Citadel. As a part of Alberta Art Days, the Citadel had opened its doors and stage to the public for a behind-the-scenes look at their theatre, and I wasn’t about to miss it as I had last year.

Mack in the Tucker Amphitheatre

There were costumes on display, in addition to dance and stage combat demonstrations, but the real draw for me was the backstage tour.

Costumes from the Wizard of Oz

Citadel staff led us behind the Shoctor Theatre stage, where we took a peek inside their beautifully-refurbished green room, narrow change area, quick change area, and incredibly complex fly system of ropes and pulleys.

Change area

Quick change area (with my reflection in the mirror)


A small portion of the ropes backstage that control the fly system (to allow for backdrop changes, among other things)

The brother-sister team who head up carpentry and lighting then gave us a quick orientation to their work. Unlike some other companies, the Citadel constructs all of their own sets. However, they pressed upon us how “low-tech” things could be – for example, the bottle that conveyed Tinkerbell’s bottle prison in Peter Pan was nothing more than LED lights and a circuit board controlled by simple switches.

Heads of lighting and carpentry, on the set of The Drowsy Chaperone

The view from the Shoctor stage

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the whole of the tour, as we had to leave for our engagement next door at the Winspear. When we both heard that Randall Stout, the man behind the controversial new Art Gallery of Alberta design, would be speaking, we jumped at the opportunity to hear his address.

Randall Stout

Like having the curtain drawn on anything, listening to Stout talk about his inspiration and choices behind the design made me appreciate the building further. The dichotomy of the sweeping stainless steel curves and boxy zinc forms was Stout’s observation of the disparity between our serene river valley and urban core, although the curves also reference the aurora borealis. The interior will have not only a great hall accented by four stories of glass panes, but also a grand staircase that will link it all together. Photos of the hall reminded me of the stunning Newseum we visited in DC, and if it has even a fraction of the grandiosity of that building, I think Edmontonians will have something to be extremely proud of. I’m also excited to see the  third floor outdoor terrace and street-level cafe.

What most struck me about his address was how well Stout seemed to know Edmonton, or at least the ideal that the city could be. For example, he showed one early conceptual shot of the gallery, with a similarly sweeping steel entrance highlighting the LRT across the street – he said that although the LRT entrance was beyond the scope of the competition, it was his “gift” to the City’s fathers, in the hopes that they would incorporate it on their own.

The new AGA, still under construction

The gallery will officially open on January 31, 2010. If you want to learn more about the background of the design, the Art Gallery of Alberta is currently hosting an exhibit called Building a Vision, which covers its conception to construction (remember – the gallery offers pay-what-you-may admission on Thursdays from 4-8pm!).

These are exciting times in Edmonton – I’m looking forward to January already!

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