For decades, a brick building at 83 Avenue and 104 Street has connected Edmontonians — first running the phone lines for the neighbourhood and, most recently, teaching people about the history of telephones as a museum.
By the end of 2022, it will connect people in a different way.
It will be the first dedicated space the improv troupe has had since it started more then 35 years ago.
“The proximity to this area, to the Fringe (festival) grounds, the visibility and the foot traffic in this area is the perfect fit for Rapid Fire Theatre,” explained the organization’s artistic director Matt Schuurman.
Periodically, the Fringe had used the building for small shows but renovations will expand its use.
Upstairs will be a theatre with room for more than 150 guests. There will also be a bar and bathrooms.
Downstairs, Rapid Fire Theatre will have space for its offices, along with a smaller theatre which will be used for classes and corporate events.
The work is expected to wrap up by the end of 2022.
Schuurman told Global News the move comes at the right time.
“Not just ourselves, so many arts and performance organizations have had to reinvent ourselves several times over the last couple of years,” he said.
“Who knows what the future will look like, but this space and this project will allow us to have a space to do our programming no matter what that looks like.”
The group has approached the renovation using a lense of inclusion.
‘We’ve reached out to accessibility consultants and Indigenous consultants as well, because we want this space to be welcoming for everyone and all parties and all abilities,” explained general manager Sarah Huffman.
That will include an elevator, inclusive washrooms and an accessible stage which will allow for all performers to participate.
While the old building will be modern in that regard, it will also boast memorabilia from the past.
“We were able to go through the space before demolition and pick some items that we thought would be really cool aesthetic pieces to have, and really chime back to the historic element of it,” said Huffman.
The funding is being provided in part from grants from both the provincial and federal governments.