Is Red Deer a "Theatre City"?
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Yes, and a vibrant one at that.
There are perhaps more opportunities in Red Deer per capita, than anywhere else in Alberta to get involved in theatre. In addition to the amount of theatre available, the variety of theatre being presented is diverse enough that there is something for everyone. Here is a run-down of all that Red Deer and Central Alberta have to offer to those interested in watching or participating in theatre:
The Red Deer Memorial Centre
Central Alberta Theatre is not only the oldest theatre company in Central Alberta, but they produce the most theatre, and offer the most opportunities. Housed at the Red Deer Memorial Centre, C.A.T. is a community theatre company, which is approaching its 50th season. When most people think of C.A.T., they may think of the four dinner theatre productions per season at the Black Knight Inn. However, C.A.T. also offers some great opportunities for artists to explore other productions in their annual Nickle Studio productions, and one-act festival. C.A.T. is also a great place to go for training opportunities, as they bring in professionally trained artists to teach all areas of theatre.
Ignition Theatre is in their 15th season of producing professional theatre in Red Deer. Their mission is to produce “dynamic, provocative, and ultimately rewarding live theatre experience for the Central Alberta region”. As a semi-professional theatre company, Ignition Theatre has produced over 50 productions in their history. Under the Artistic Direction of Matt Grue, Ignition has represented the next step for many artists in their theatre career. In addition to theatre, Ignition has also produced award-winning films, such as Break on Through.
Our very own Tree House Youth Theatre operates out of the Red Deer Memorial Centre. Now in its 31st season, Tree House began at the Red Deer College, shortly after the completion of the Arts Centre. Created by Richard O’Brien, Tree House is open to Central Alberta Youth aged 9-17 and strives to teach them the industry standards in stage craft and character creation. Through production, workshops, and mentorship from industry professionals, Tree House is an opportunity to learn for youth of all skill levels.
Improv Jelly offers up sketch and improvisation, and their mission is to “create great stories together”. Founded by Paul Sutherland and Nicole Leal (former Tree House A.D.), Improv Jelly offers opportunities for pretty much anyone. Drop-in “Jam” sessions are offered throughout the month, workshops occur a few times a season, and a brand-new program at the Red Deer Public Library is creating opportunities for youth to get involved. A few times a year Improv Jelly has shows that showcase the strengths of their members, and they aim to make improv accessible to everyone.
The Scott Block
Against the Wall theatre company is the producer of the wildly popular Bull Skit, and Bull Prov. In over 10 seasons of shows, Bull Skit has become a Red Deer institution. The loyal group of patrons turn up every show to watch improv and sketch comedy. Founded by Jenna Goldade, Against the Wall has also produced scripted productions throughout their history.
Red Deer Players Society was created in 2014 by a group of local artists with the mission of creating “high quality and thought-provoking community theatre productions, that enrich the arts in the Red Deer area”. Beginning with a reader’s theatre, RDP moved into producing a wide variety of plays from dramatic pieces, to full-blown musicals. Primarily housed at the Scott Block, Red Deer Players has produced shows around Central Alberta, and even recently at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.
Prime Stock Theatre is most famous for their annual Bard on the Bower productions. Every summer, PST puts on at least two full scale productions of some of Shakespeare’s best-known works. These are free to the public, semi-professional shows that draw in hundreds of Central Albertans to the festival. When not doing their shows at Bower Ponds, Prime Stock also produces shows that have a mandate to be written by Canadians. Artistic Director, Thomas Usher, Prime Stock has a mission to be “an [a]rtist-driven theatre that cultivates and challenges the limits of expression and expectation”.
Training, Schools, and Everything in Between
The Red Deer College Theatre Performance and Creation program operates out of the Arts Centre at RDC. For decades, RDC has been a place for actors and technicians to learn through “an intense and innovative hands-on program designed to guide the emerging theatre artist”. There is a direct line from the RDC theatre program to the creation of Ignition Theatre, Bull Skit, Improv Jelly, and Tree House Youth Theatre.
Cornerstone Youth Theatre, in Red Deer, puts on large scale musical productions throughout the year. Their mission is “instilling confidence and character through theatre arts opportunities and education; reflecting Christ in Judeo-Christian values” and they allow opportunities to youth aged 6-18.
Central Alberta High Schools are a fantastic way to try out theatre. The four high schools in Red Deer Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, Hunting Hills High School, Notre Dame, and St. Joseph’s, as well as Innisfail High School and HJ Cody School in Sylvan Lake, all offer excellent theatre programs that allow for training opportunities in fields such as acting, technical theatre, and improvisation.
Outside of Red Deer
Outside of Red Deer, there are several theatre groups. Innisfail Town Theatre, which performs at The Ol’ Moose, produces shows throughout the year in addition to hosting the Heartland One-Act Festival. Founded in 1979, ITT strives to “provide quality live community theatre for our patrons, and to provide a fun, creative outlet for our members”.
The Homegrown Theatre Production Company in Lacombe, produces and writes their own stage performances and is open to any and all ability levels. A big milestone for them is happening this season, as they are moving into their new home, the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre, a task that has taken countless hours of hard work and dedication.
Cow Patti, in Lacombe, produced their first production in Alberta in 1995. Their mandate is to produce professional theatre in Central Alberta and they do this by hosting touring theatre groups that have professional actors, crew, and direction. Located at the Lacombe Gold and Country Club, Cow Patti offers up a variety of choices when it comes to their dinner and dessert offerings.
Out west in Rocky Mountain House there is the Northern Crossing Music and Drama Society. Performing in a variety of venues in Rocky Mountain House, they put up large scale musicals each year, and are worth the drive out to check out their shows.
Theatre opportunities are abundant in Red Deer and area. The theatre community is vibrant, and ever changing, with new faces being welcomed each year. What are some of your favorite theatre experiences you have had in Red Deer? We would love to hear from you!