A sold out crowd of 60 packed into the Roger Epp conference room at the University of Alberta Augustana Nov. 27, eager to hear how the Camrose Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) is progressing.
While the audience munched on sandwiches, project manager Michael Madsen outlined the journey through CPAC’s planning and development, from concept to well-attended groundbreaking ceremony (“It spoke very highly of the passion and commitment to this project in the community.”) to the rise into the Camrose skyline.
At its present 19.3 million cost (partly covered by sustainability grants), Madsen explained that the 4,100 square metre building is on the cutting edge of sustainable design. The photovoltaic panels covering the fly tower will generate 122 kilowatts of power (enough to power 1,200 100 watt light bulbs) and will actually put power onto the Alberta grid during the day when the building is not in use. The building also has barrier free seating and elevators for maximum accessibility.
“Even though it’s a big stage and 550 seats it’s still a very intimate theatre,” said Madsen. “Even up on the second level the stage just seems like it’s right there.”
According to Madsen, the stage is 13 metres wide and 46 feet deep. The main floor’s sloped seating accommodates 450 and the balcony 100, but depending on how the theatre’s loose seating is arranged, the space seats up to 580.
Madsen expressed particular delight with the latest addition to the building’s design: a ring of LED lights around the top of the tower.
“These lights here can be programmed in all colours,” said Madsen. “It really will draw attention to this building in the nighttime sky.”
“After hearing that, I would defy anyone in the room to say our building is not better than anyone else’s building,” said theatre manager Kerry Rajotte, stepping up to follow Madsen with a spirited talk about future programming for CPAC.
Rajotte began with a breakdown of CPAC’s mission statement: “To engage and inspire through artistic excellence and learning experience, and to lead in the celebration of cultural achievements in our community.”
“How do we support this statement moving forward?” she asked.
Rajotte suggested that by “seeking out new ways to engage different sectors of the community locally, provincially and nationally” the facility could become the hub for all kinds of concurrent annual events, allowing Camrose to become a “cultural destination.” Rajotte said this goal could include other local groups and facilities and encourage unity and partnerships in the local arts scene.
“I’m always looking for connections,” said Rajotte. “How to connect so that it works for you and it works for me and, ultimately, the beneficiary is the community in which we live.”
Rajotte pointed out that these types of events draw people in to the community from all around the province and beyond.
“They need to eat, they need to drink, they need to shop,” she said. “All of those things lead to building the economy in Camrose.”
Apart from the monetary advantages, Rajotte described benefits incurred from enjoying the arts such as civic pride, increased quality of life and social connections. She also stressed the educational value of a dynamic arts culture for young and old, detailing plans to partner with groups like Boomtown Trail to help school children engage with history in a new way.
“I’m a huge advocate for getting children and young people in to see live performing arts,” she said, “introducing them to as many kinds of performing arts as we possibly can.”
Rajotte also said she hopes to develop matinee programming so that families, seniors and everyone else can enjoy the theatre experience without having to venture out on a cold, dark evening.
“There’s something to be said for having a collective experience, and that’s part of what makes us human,” she said. “It’s about helping audiences to engage in different kinds of live performing arts and seeing how far we can take you.”
To that end, Rajotte assured the audience that CPAC will be accessible to local groups worried that audiences will begrudge a higher ticket price to come to shows there. She explained that groups using the space will have access to the best equipment as well as the technical expertise and assistance of CPAC staff, and suggested that local audiences may be surprisingly amenable to paying a bit more for a “world class” experience.
“I have said repeatedly since I’ve come, that I don’t believe in any way shape or form that it’s an either/or,” said Rajotte, “that one [facility] has to go because the other exists now. It is absolutely an ‘and.’”
Rajotte said a soft opening for CPAC is scheduled for May 1, but gave a sneak preview of what is in store for the gala opening the first week in October.
Wednesday will be “hard hat night,” a time for the tradespeople who worked on the facility (predominantly local) and their families to come and enjoy the finished space.
Thursday will be geared toward students, while Friday night will feature Albertan talent.
Saturday the building will be open to the public for tours with a family-oriented performance in the afternoon and the main gala event in the evening. Sunday is the alumni brunch, and will likely include choral music.