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‘Full circle’: After 7 years, the Roxy Theatre reopens its doors in Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s Roxy Theatre reopens after devastating 2015 fire' Edmonton’s Roxy Theatre reopens after devastating 2015 fire
WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton's Roxy Theatre is now open once again after being destroyed by fire in 2015. As Sarah Komadina reports, it's the start of a new legacy – Apr 15, 2022

It was a reopening for the ages Thursday night as, after seven long years, the Roxy Theatre reopened its doors and heart to Edmontonians.

“I’m so excited. I’m thrilled that we get to reopen, that we get to see people again. I’m just really grateful to be here,” said Theatre Network board president Jared Tabler.

A celebratory event was held at the theatre on 124 Street and 107 Avenue Thursday night for donors, board members and artists.

“It’s so cool and it’s a very full-circle moment,” said Ellie Heath, a performer with Girl Brain, which was part of the Roxy performance series at the old theatre.

“My first role ever outside of theatre school was at the Roxy… To be one of the first performers on stage at the new space is just like a dream come true. I can’t even really wrap my head around it. It’s just amazing.”

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Read more: Roxy Theatre rebuild reaches milestone; venue expected to reopen in 1 year

The old Roxy Theatre was destroyed by fire in 2015. It was a devastating blow to those at the theatre, as well as Edmonton’s arts community as a whole.

“It is a little emotional,” Tabler said. “The journey to get here, to rebuild.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s Roxy Theatre rising from the ashes' Edmonton’s Roxy Theatre rising from the ashes
Edmonton’s Roxy Theatre rising from the ashes – Feb 9, 2018

There was a point where the board wasn’t sure a rebuild was possible. But with the help of funding from all levels of government, Theatre Network’s board of directors and many other generous donors, $12 million was raised to build the brand new space.

“It certainly was a labour of love,” board member Lewis Cardinal said. “It’s here in a newer form and I think it’s going to provide a lot of opportunities for young artists to participate in it, and new shows to be created. So there’s a lot of positives.

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“It’s a quintessential sign, you know, the phoenix rising sort of thing with something new that’s still grounded in what it is and what it was and what it can be.”

The new Roxy was designed by Group 2 Architecture and Interior Design and includes two performance spaces, a rehearsal hall, a visual art gallery and a rooftop garden.

The 200-seat Nancy Power Theatre, the venue’s main stage theatre, is named after Theatre Network’s first board president.

The smaller Lorne Cardinal Theatre — also known as the black box theatre — is a versatile space for theatre productions, live music, dance, film and art installations.

“My brother, Lorne, he’s been a path maker and he’s really created opportunities for other young people to learn the craft, to learn his art, which we hope will inspire young Indigenous people and really just young people in general,” Cardinal said.

Read more: Edmonton’s Roxy Theatre to be rebuilt on 124 Street

While the building may be new, the Roxy still pays homage to its iconic roots.

“From the art deco touches in the main bathroom, to the colours we chose in the Nancy Power main stage theatre, they’re all little nods back to the old building,” Tabler said.

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The grand opening celebrations continue throughout the weekend, with the public invited to view the space Friday and the launch of the visual arts program on Saturday. Anyone who wants to view the space can sign up for free tickets on Theatre Network’s website.

“There is a heartbeat here,” Heath said.

“It’s not just performers that appreciate theatre. It’s people in our community. Just to feel — especially after the pandemic, especially after two years away from the stage and especially after seven years away from the Roxy stage — to be in a room with people who just really want to make it happen and really want to show up for the arts in our city — incredible.

Theatre Network still has about $400,000 to raise for the project.

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